David Weinberger's Weblog. Let's just see how it goes.
How to survive a nuclear war with just a hat
Thursday, October 31, 2002
Bucks On Line
Here's a chart I generated from data from Nielsen//NetRatings as reported by the Center for Media Research. It shows the growth of Internet usage (US) from Sept. 01 to Sept. 02 according to household income.
For the left-brained among us, here's the text version from the Center's coverage:
NOTE: John Walkenbach over at the J-Walk blog has vastly improved my visual display of this quantitative data. And he's provided notes explaining exactly why mine sucks. Nice job.
10/31/2002 08:29:59 AM | PermaLink
Reed on Metaphors Is like a _____ on _____.
David Reed has written an insightful insightful short piece on the limitations (and inevitability) of scientific metaphors. For example:
10/31/2002 08:09:44 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Bryan Field-Elliot of NetMeme responds to some bloggery about Stephen Wolfram by pointing us to an article by Michael Shermer (editor of Skeptic) in Scientific American that wonders why Wolfram is getting far more attention than an equally implausible-sounding theory from James Carter.
Yet the article has already pointed to the screening method: Feynman called Wolfram "astonishing" and Wolfram was the youngest person ever to win a MacArthur "genius" award, whereas Carter "has beeen an abalone diver, gold miner, filmmaker, cave digger, repairman, inventor and owner-operator of a trailer park." That doesn't mean, of course, that his theory of "circlons" is wrong. But the screening process is probably working pretty well: Carter published and no one paid much attention. If you're going to pay full attention to every publication, you don't have much of a filtering system.
What Shermer is talking about is probably better called a "second look," and they're important, too. (And, inevitably, this discussion should send us scuttling back to Kuhn who shows that "conservativism" in science isn't a political choice but a requirement for there to be science at all: science can only proceed within a paradigm.)
10/30/2002 10:33:58 AM | PermaLink
My son Nathan, 11, yesterday asked:
He worked out an answer, but I enjoyed the question more. As did he.
10/30/2002 10:12:09 AM | PermaLink
Google is KM
Adina Levin makes the case that a sufficiently usable search engine that has indexed a sufficiently large text base — i.e., Google — in effect is a KM system.
Yup. In short: If you know where things are, you don't ever have to clean up.
(One caveat: This works when you know exactly what you're looking for, but browsing a taxonomy is helpful when you don't.)
10/30/2002 09:19:22 AM | PermaLink
Contest: When Tivo Rules
A Mini-Bogus Contest: Now that Tivo has taken over our home — last night it deposed our atomic clock, frog-marching it out the door — how might this jealous god recast old programs in its image? For example:
And while we're on the subject, what's up with "I Love Lucy" as a title? Doesn't that imply that Desi Arnaz thought he was the star? How pathetic is that!
10/30/2002 08:41:54 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Law v. Leeway
Michael Fleming responds to the article in my newsletter about leeway with this quotation:
10/29/2002 10:44:37 AM | PermaLink
On the Radio
I'll be talking on the radio today about why I want to have hot monkey sex with Google. This is the first of what I hope will be a continuing series of tech commentary for WBUR's "Here and Now," carried by 44 stations. My piece will be on at 12:20pm. Come listen to me make a fool of myself. Again.
(Here's a link. You'll need the Real Player to hear the piece.)
10/29/2002 10:38:48 AM | PermaLink
On the Road
Yes, I'm on the road, but in about as anti-Kerouackian way as possible — fly in at night, stay at a Sheraton, watch TV, give a talk, leave the next morning. I don't think this qualifies me as a Dharma Bum.
I just gave a keynote at a conference on integration (think KM, portals, XML) put on by the Delphi Group. The conference is in Reston, VA, and has drawn people from around the country and even overseas, yet another anecdotal indicator that the conference business may be springing back. (Since I make much of my living as a speaker, this is of more than academic interest to me.)
Delphi surprise-inducted me this morning into their League of Honorees (I didn't quite catch the name of the group). I was in a post-speaking Zone of Confusion and missed the details, but I think we get capes and fight crime. (No, but seriously, I appreciate the honor.)
Anyway, it will be a Day of Light Blogging for me because I'm traveling. Do carry on.
10/29/2002 10:37:24 AM | PermaLink
Monday, October 28, 2002
I am the Egg Man
Let there be no doubt: In Kate Bulkley's excellent article in The Guardian about blogging and wifi, I am Mr. Laptop.
10/28/2002 02:14:07 PM | PermaLink
Udell on Google Addresses and ENUM
Jon Udell uses my blog about the phone number trick at Google to talk about what happens when what used to be public but obscure becomes public and easily accessible.
He also mentions the IETF ENUM initiative "which seeks a mapping between telephone numbers and the DNS." The official IETF white paper on usage scenarios of this mapping says:
I don't know enough to have an opinion. If you do, lemme know.
10/28/2002 10:54:56 AM | PermaLink
Redesigning the Peace Symbol 2
Frank Paynter responds to my blog about designing a new peace symbol:
Nice connecting of peace and freedom, but I think the new symbol does have to be scribblable by people who recently ingested 100-250mgs of hallucinogens, just as a practical matter.
10/28/2002 10:37:02 AM | PermaLink
Let's Keep Things Clear
Fox proposes televised coverage of arms inspectors in Iraq so "Viewers could decide for themselves if the inspectors are being allowed to do their jobs"?
A pyramid scheme for "Women Helping Women" sweeps the nation?
A movie featuring stupid, gross stunts is #1 at the box office?
Please, people, this is what we have the Web for!
10/28/2002 07:34:02 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, October 27, 2002
New Issue of JOHO
I've published a new issue of my free newsletter:
Free subscription, no ads, no spam...you know, it wouldn't kill you to sign up for it.
10/27/2002 11:47:27 AM | PermaLink
Eric Norlin responds to the article in my newsletter on the DigitalID World conference. [Note: Eric reports that he's having trouble with his permalinks.]
Also, you don't want to miss his response to my peacenik blog.
10/27/2002 11:45:02 AM | PermaLink
Stanton Finley has sent a message to a bunch o' bloggers and others asking us to re-design the peace symbol.
The old peace symbol represents the letters "ND" in semaphor language. Since Nuclear Disarmament no longer tops the peacenik agenda, we could indeed use a new symbol.
I am refraining from suggesting my proposed "Forgive me" hand gesture, but I have no other ideas. Suggestions anyone?
Stan also asks us for a "manifesto" of peace. Here's mine. (Prepare for Hippie Resurgence Syndrome.)
10/27/2002 07:40:33 AM | PermaLink
Jock Gill on Krugman
Jock Gill, Clinton's original tech advisor, has posted a column on a piece he thinks is missing from Paul Krugman's essay.
Jock agrees with Krugman about the economic divide: the top 1% of Americans have doubled their share of the nation's wealth in the past 30 years, while the median income has grown only 10% in the same time. But he disputes Krugman's claim that "Gilded Ages and Gilded Plutocrats, not relative middle-class income equality, are the norm in American life." Not before the Robber Barons, Jock says, because there weren't yet corporations that "never die and do not vote, yet have the full legal and constitutional rights, and wealth that never dies even when the humans do." The result is a corrupt political system that favors the rich.
Here's why I'm depressed: We don't care. We somehow believe we're in an economy of abundance so the fact that the top 1% have the wealth of the bottom 40% doesn't matter to us so long as we feel ok about ourselves. And when was the last time you heard a politician talk about the poor as anything except a burden to the rest of us? Or look beyond our borders to see the effect of our life on others, much less accept a moral responsibility to help raise up the world?
Except when Paul Wellstone spoke.
Speaking of Big Lies, Brad DeLong does a ripsnortin' job on Chuck Grassley's letter to the editor in the NY Times. Ironically, the letter purports to set the record straight about who gets what in the Bush tax cut plan, but Brad exposes the letter is a pack of untruths. (Thanks to Scott Rosenberg for the link.)
10/27/2002 07:14:07 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, October 26, 2002
Werbach on Decentralization
Kevin Werbach has a terrific article on decentralization at news.com:
This is the theme of his upcoming Supernova conference. (I'm going.)
10/26/2002 10:23:08 AM | PermaLink
More on Google URLs
Peter Kaminski responds to my neologizing "Google URLs" ("A search query that puts a page at the top of Google's returns list"):
You make a page robust, according to this paper, by running their free, open source software that adds a "lexical signature" about five words long, a hash of your document content. People can find your page by searching for its signature, so even if you move the page, Google (or whatever) will find it for you.
The problem is that the signature isn't necessarily memorable. For example, the signature of www.cluetrain.com is "html intranetworked uznajut happytalk stemmens" whereas its Google URL is "cluetrain."
Norm Jenson points out that (as I'd blogged) when you search on your phone number at Google (in quotes, no hyphens) and it finds your address and gives you a link to a Yahoo! map of where you live, Yahoo also lets you generate code you stick on your web page to take friends and burglars to your site.
10/26/2002 09:01:44 AM | PermaLink
Seth Johnson points out that two senators, on this sad day for that institution, "are starting to show some truly helpful cluefulness" :
He and Chris Cox (R-Calif) are sponsoring a bill to make this idea all legal and everything.
(For the record, my wife and I went door-to-door a couple of times for Wyden during his first political campaign. We thus feel, in a Stallman "Gnu Linux" sort of way, that the bill really ought to be referred to as the Wyden-Cox-Weinberger-Geller Law.)
10/26/2002 08:50:08 AM | PermaLink
Senator Paul Wellstone's death has narrowed our political vision yet further. We're down to about what can be seen through the sights of a gun.
He was a mensch.
10/26/2002 06:57:41 AM | PermaLink
Friday, October 25, 2002
The Palladium Paradox
MIT Technology Review just posted a column of mine on why we should be scared of Microsoft Palladium.
10/25/2002 11:26:34 AM | PermaLink
News - Freudian and eCelebrity
I was at the Newseum, a site that thumbnails newspaper front pages from around the world. (Thanks, Dan Pink.) I clicked on the Australia's Courier Mail and saw their tag line:
Unfortunately, I freudianly misread it as:
Two letters can make the difference between marketing and truth, eh?
And while we're discussing news about news, J.D. Lasica has asked various digeratti what they read for news. For extra fun, try to guess the answers the ecelebs give; I bet you won't be far wrong. (Kudos to Henry Jenkins for mentioning TheOnion as a news source.)
10/25/2002 09:23:30 AM | PermaLink
Adina Levin, having read my ramble about Stephen Wolfram's presentation at PopTech, recommends Kurzweil's appreciation of him, which she has summarized here. The Kurzweil piece is well-written and leave us humanities majors behind about a third of the way in.
There's also a good article — again only two-thirds beyond my comprehension — by Steven Weinberg in the NY Review of Books.
Steve Yost writes pithily about reading Wolfram. He says:
10/25/2002 09:14:06 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, October 24, 2002
1. Go to google.com
10/24/2002 01:32:58 PM | PermaLink
I've posted a review of Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" over at BlogCritics.org. I found the movie entertaining and righteous but willing to sacrifice coherence for the sake of a good stunt.
10/24/2002 09:54:21 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Googling for People
The debate continues over how to solve the DNS mess. The mess exists because there are more people than there are names. So, who gets davidweinberger.com? (Hint: I didn't.) Not to mention who gets Disney.com, Schwarzenegger.com, and PamelaAnderson.com.
Dan Gillmor a few months ago said that Google had solved the problem, at least for now. If I want to find my pal Bob Smith, the Mulholland furrier, I google him with a query like "bob smith furrier mulholland." Very likely, Google will get it right.
So, why not build on this? Google could enable us to fill out a standard form with fields for name, email, web pages, parents, town, high school, college, jobs, employers, hobbies, publications, summer camps, etc. Then add a tab to Google.com called "People." Weight the form very heavily when searching for names, so that if you searched for "david weinberger herricks," the Google engine would notice that "herricks" is listed on my personal form as my high school, and thus would move my web pages (the ones I've listed on the form) way up the list. No one besides me would ever see my form itself.
Google has the heft to pull this off. If you know someone at Google, wanna pass this along? Alternatively, you might want to point out the gaping hole in my logic that makes this idea not just implausible but actually humiliating.
Either way, thank you.
10/23/2002 03:39:25 PM | PermaLink
[Note: Vernor Vinge gave out Google URLs in his talk at PopTech, as reported, but didn't use the term itself.]
10/23/2002 09:53:06 AM | PermaLink
Bricklin on a Remarkable Aunt
Dan Bricklin has a touching appreciation of his aunt, Hinda Gross, who died last Friday. It's a reminder of how remarkable we can make our lives if we choose to.
10/23/2002 09:37:53 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
The Future of Competition
Scott Kirsner writes in yesterday's Boston Globe about two Boston-area companies coming out with anti-spam products. The founder of one of the companies, Spamnix, was one of the founders of the other company, InterMute. (InterMute is best known for AdSubtract.) Even though the Spamnix guy signed a non-compete, he claims it only pertains to ad-blocking software, not spam. Nevertheless, it's easy to imagine InterMute suing, if only to slow the launch of competitive software.
Now, that's the way it ought to be.
[Disclosure: Paul English at InterMute is an old friend of mine and a sometime business partner. I've been a beta for his upcoming spam product, SpamSubtract.]
10/22/2002 07:19:33 AM | PermaLink
Monday, October 21, 2002
Letter to FCC: Fail Fast
A bunch of netty women and men have sent a letter to FCC Chair Michael "Son of" Powell. The basic message is: When the telecommunications industry goes bankrupt, don't try to resuscitate the corpse. Let it go. Its infrastructure and the business model based on it are obsolete. It can't be fixed. Instead, let the market bring forth a new era of innovation and connectivity, let a hundred flowers bloom, let the moon enter the house of Aquarius, etc. The alternative is that we sink billions into companies that are doing everything they can to prevent telecommunications - the whole schmear of telephones, cable, broadband and the stuff we haven't invented yet - from doing what it wants to do: go digital, go IP, go everywhere.
The letter is posted at http://www.netparadox.com. The issue is important because the existing industry is going to use every weapon it can find, including the blunt instrument of "It's the only way we can defeat the terrorists" in order to maintain its grip. So, wanna help spread the word?
10/21/2002 03:09:40 PM | PermaLink
How to Be Popular Explained
I learned a lesson from Ernie the Attorney at PopTech.
Which should you bring to a conference if you want to be incredibly popular?
10/21/2002 10:03:56 AM | PermaLink
Why I Conference Blog
More than a couple of people noticed me and Ernie the Attorney blogging next to each other from PopTech. "Why?" they asked. "Why are you so focused on blogging the conference?"
Durn fine question to which I have less than durn fine answers.
1. I blog conferences for the same reasons that I blog in general: I don't know.
2. blogging forces me to pay attention, just as note-taking in general does.
3. Insofar as I'm engaged by what the speakers are saying, I want to be talking with them. Since conferences insist on maintaining a distinction between "panelist" and "audience member," blogging lets me participate. Best of all, I always get the last word.
But why real-time blog since post-session blogging enables me to reflect on what was said and write more thoughtfully? But post-session blogging means that after a full day at an intellectually intense conference like PopTech, followed by an intellectually intense dinner, followed by an intellectually intense dessert, I have to go back to my hotel room and write a @#$%!-ing blog entry. So, real-time blogging is better for me but worse for my readers.
And, dear readers, isn't that really what it's all about?
10/21/2002 09:46:40 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, October 20, 2002
[From PopTech] I'm supposed to blog an hour with Wolfram? Ay caramba!
I'm going to write some general comments, and then I'll post my running notes.
I haven't read Wolfram's book and I am in no position to evaluate the truth or usefulness of what he said.
I hear what he says through a couple of filters. His general thesis - that structures as complex as the universe itself can be generated from incredibly simple rules - resonates. It's the basic claim of chaos theory. And, for me it helps get around my lifelong discomfort with the nature of scientific laws. The idea that the universe is governed by laws is too clearly an application of the governance paradigm to the physical universe. And, while Wolfram's theory gets us past this, in the same way, of course, Wolfram applies the computer paradigm to the universe. And the fact that his paradigm maps to the paradigm of current technology isn't just a coincidence.
Wolfram's presentation was surprisingly clear. I followed more than I'd thought, although I certainly got lost as he went on. Unfortunately, I got lost as he got more and more interesting. I hate when that happens.
Ultimately, of course, the question is the extent to which the rules describe the universe or generated the universe. Not having read the book, I strongly suspect the answer is that the question is phrased entirely wrong. I'm definitely gonna buy the book and pretend to read it.
Anyway, on to the running notes...
[Ernie the Attorney's take on Wolfram is very funny.]
John Benditt began by summarizing Stephen Wolfram's idea: "The entire universe is the output of an algorithm the size of a four or five line computer program."
Wolfram physically looks a bit like Jason Alexander, but that's pretty much where the similarity ends. He's British and, of course, some type of genius.
He came to his idea while writing programs that try to break down into primitives the things humans want to do (e.g., Mathematica). Suppose you could do the same for nature. What kinds of computer programs might be relevant? From writing mathematical programs, he thought it would have to be quite complex. But suppose you look at very simple programs, one line of code, even chosen at random. Pick the simplest programs and see what they do. So, he looked at "cellular automata." A simple starting point and a simple rule can create complex patterns.
There are 256 simple (8-bit) ceullular automata, so he decided to look at all of them. With rule 30, truly random patterns result. Very simple things go in and very complex things come out, which is against our normal intuition.
So, he decided to point this new "telescope" at other phenomena. The same behavior occurs in a "vast array of systems." It wasn't noticed before because you need computers "and tools like Mathematica," and because it goes against our intuition.
Why does the phenomenon happen? You need a new conceptual framework to explain that. All natural processes can be viewed as computations. Sometimes you know what the output will be ahead of time, e.g., with cellular automaton designed to do squares or to find primes. But there can be universal cellular automata that emulate other, dedicated automata, by being given different input.
The principle of computational equivalence: Any system whose behavior doesn't look obviously simple to us will turn out to be performing a computation similar to any other." [I may have blown that. The pool is getting over my head.] That is, if you look at a system with only simple rules, it will show behavior that's simple and regular. But if you make the rules for the system just a tiny bit more complicated, you jump to having a system that is as sophisticated as any other.
This principle yields predictions: A system like this should be able to do universal computation. And it can.
You wouldn't expect to find this in nature since human-made universal computers are highly complex. It suggests that there should be lots of systems in nature capable of sophisticated computation.
This explains why Cellular Automaton #30 looks complicated to us. Imagine a system and a observer who's trying to decode what the system is doing. The PCE says that in many cases, the behavior of the system will be as complex as the systems inside the observer. That's why #30 seems complex. This leads (somehow) to the Principle Computational Irreducibility. E.g., we can figure out where the earth will be in its orbit 1M years from now just by plugging nubers into a formula. But in some cases, the only way to work out will happen is to run the system, to do the experiment. That defines a limit from what one can expect to get from science.
For example: "The Weather has a mind of its own." The PCE says there's some sense to this in that fluid turbulence in the atmospher is doing as sophisticated a calculation as what's hapening in our minds.
Q&A with John Benditt
Q: You postulate that there is a rule for the universe itself. That seems preposterous because the universe is enormously complex. Defend yourself.
A: I might not believe that had I not seen all that the programs I was studying could do. Physics gets more complex the smaller the object of study gets. But that doesn't have to be the case. A very simple program might be able to produce all the complexity.
What might that program might be like? If the program is small, then the things immediately visible in our universe can't be visible in that program. Also, there has to be as little as possible built into that program. Cellular automata already have too much built in: it has the notion of cells arranged in space and that the color of the cell is different from the cell itself. In the end, one doesn't need anything except space. [This is so similar to Hegel's Logic which generates the universe simply from Being. "Sein. Reine Sein." and we're off and running.] I ultimately suspect one doesn't need anything more than pure space to generate the universe.
But what is space? In traditional science you don't get to ask that question. But my guess is that space ultimately is a collection of discrete points and all we know is how those points are connected to other points.
Q: Isn't this at odd with common sense and 300 years of science?
A: Yes. Newton and Einstein both see space as a background without its own properties. Einstein explored the idea that space is all there is later in his life. Space is a collection of nodes where every node is connected to three others.
So how does time work? Traditionally, time has simply been another dimension. But when you think about programs, time operates very differently than space. I think time is much closer to programs. For cellular automata, every cell gets incremented in sync. But there's probably no universal clock. So, maybe only one place in the universe gets updated at a time. It seems simultaneous because until I get updated, I can't tell if you've been updated. Some known features of physics can be explained this way (e.g., relativity).
"What's encouraging is that from so little one gets out so much." So, if we go all the way, we may be able to define the universe in one small program. "It won't be as exciting as one might think because when the universe ran this program, it took 10B years to run the program." And the Principle of Computational Irreducibility means that we can't catch up: you have to actually run the program.
Q: What is the experimental program that will let us find this program?
A: The core of my new science is a type of abstract science. If the rule is simple enough, we could just search for it. Search through the simplest one trillion rules. Some will be promising but, e.g., won't have time. Many elaborate tools need to be buit.
Questions from the audience
Q: Is this falsifiable?
A: The core of what I've tried to do is more like mathematics than natural science. Falsifiability isn't that relevant for mathematics. Math is tested on whether it's useful in modeling the physical world. He expects there will be thousands of papers in ten years proposing very simple rules. Wolfram himself has proposed some models for fluid turbulence that are surprising.
Q: What effects does your thinking have on fields like philosophy.
A: There hasn't been much time for people to integrate it into other fields. But his book does talk philosophy and is already making an impact on philosophy, e.g., the effect of computational irreducibility has implications for Free Will.
Q: What about the size of the initial conditions? In order to get universality, you can't start with one bit on. What's the number you need? Randomness is the most complex thing. When you come across complexity, you may be looking at it wrong and there may be a simpler way of looking at it. E.g., fractals may be complex and beautiful but result from a single line program.
A: The idea is that you can characterize the complexity of an entity only by looking at the complexity of the program that generated it.
Q: Count the amount of computer time you dissipate, not just the initial state, you can get complexity.
Q: You show that we see simple patterns at various scales.
A: Complex issue. Most CA are not on all the same scales. (Fractals are.) ...[and here my attention and understanding ended]
10/20/2002 12:08:28 PM | PermaLink
[From PopTech] Alexander Shulgin, the chemist who invented ecstasy, carefully creates new molecules and then more carefully ingests them on the grounds that there's no other way to see the effect on the mind. He said wants to raise the question of the mind rather than the brain. But he never quite got to it, at least not explicitly. Shulgin does not believe that computers will ever imitate the mind, although they'll be good at imitating the brain. "The mind process is what I'm primarily interested in."
He's a charming presenter. Just when you think drugs have smoothed off the edges of his mind, he comes through with enough detailed chemistry to remind you that he is in fact a rigorous scientifist.
He gave a personal accounting of drugs he has known and loved, although he talked about them in their chemical names ("dimethoxyladida" is about as close as I can get) so it came out as a list without punctuation.
He railed against the "analog drug bill" that says that if a drug is "substantially similar" (vague enough for you?) to a schedule one drug (one with no medical use and a high potential for abuse), then it shall be treated as a schedule one drug.
He estimates that there are 200 known psychedelics. Given the growth rate, there will be maybe 2,000 in the next 10-15 years.
Now, he says, he's ready to begin his talk. (The clock has run out.) When he first took mescaline he realized there were parts of himself he had not been in contact with. Then he took another drug with just a small chemical difference and found important differences; for example, the flower he'd meditated on when on peyote he now tore apart to see what's inside. (He talks about drugs the way others talk about wines, I think on purpose.) A small brain effect can have a large mind effect.
He ended by describing a new molecule. "Here's a compound that's never been made. A whole new area of chemistry...I've not tasted it yet. I don't know what the interesting properties are. ... It doesn't know me either." So you have to do a careful introduction. "You start with a few micrograms. In case you make a mistake." There's an unlimited number of these. He finds this fascinating "and wants to do this for the rest of my life."
Fascinating person. Needs more time, and maybe an interview format. (I heard him and his wife on Terry Gross'ss Fresh Air a few months ago, and she drove the interview masterfully.)
Soundbyte: "I found the 2,4,5 orientation superb."
10/20/2002 10:25:18 AM | PermaLink
Vernor Vinge on Early Post-Humans
[From PopTech] Vinge, the science fiction writer, talked about nutty stuff, presenting seriously insane ideas with the right mix of conviction and humor to suspend our disbelief.
Vinge began by giving us a Google URL, i.e., telling us to find a site by looking up "vinge technological singularity" in Google. That leads to a page about "the singularity," the extropian notion that "...we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth." What will life be like for those before and after the change? This lead him to talk, with only a glimmer of a smile, about life for the "early post-humans."
"The surface of the earth may not turn out to be the best place to think." Maybe we'll have to seek out better places. (Better in what way? Better reading light?) Vinge points us to Hans Moravec's "Pigs in Cyberspace" that suggests that we convert the universe into a place that computes. [What a lead in to Wolfram, who speaks in the next session.]
Now for the next step. Vinge suggests that the "principle of mediocrity," along with Occam's Razor and entropic rules, are ways of getting answers when you don't have facts. The Principle of Mediocrity says that if you don't know what's going on, assume you're an average case. E.g., the earth isn't special, so the planets probably don't revolve around us. Moravec's conclusion is that the principle of mediocrity says that it is almost certain that we are ourselves living in a simulation. Says Vinge: "This is a moderately logical argment, especially if you are into this sort of thing" (i.e., if you're a nutcase).
But is this an "operationally significant issue"? Vinge says we might actually be able to tell if we're living in a simulation by "looking for the jaggies." (The "jaggies" is the stairstep effect you get with straight lines painted in inadequate resolution.) Perhaps, he suggests, the jaggies are the quantum mechanical anomalies. Apparently there are physicists who take this seriously.
10/20/2002 09:18:16 AM | PermaLink
Sherry Turkle on Identity
[From PopTech] Sherry Turkle, who did the missionary work in the effect of social computing on the sense of self, talked on the psychology of artificial worlds. Brilliantly. In particular, she talked on the natuure of authenticity. The old concept, she says, doesn't hold. "We need to take our new relationships on their own terms." And these terms include accepting that the digital world's perfection is teaching us a new sense of imperfect human perfection.
The number one question journalists ask Turkle is if children will come to love their objects more than their parents. Turkle instead is interested in how love might change. What kinds of relationships with technology are appropriate? What is a relationship? What models of the self, intention and emotion are suggested by our current technologies? What habits of mind?
Turkle said that we think about our minds as machines more than ever (as in robots and psychopharmacology). She's concerned that with the shift to a computational model of the mind, there's been a diminishment of our appreciation of ambivalence (i.e., holding more than one idea in your head). In artificial worlds, the rules are too clear. But resistance is coming from a changing notion of human pefection. We need richer language for talking about our increasingly rich relationships with artifacts. [This is a topic near and dear to me.]
During the Q&A she said that rather than asking about the effect of video games on kids, we should be talking about what habits of mind games inculcate.
Killer soundbyte: "Windows is a powerful metaphor for the distributed self"
Eliot Soloway, the moderator, argued for giving every kid a palm computer as opposed to a PC because the palm is cheaper and because, unlike a desktop machine, the student can own it without sharing it with the rest of the school.
10/20/2002 08:50:10 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, October 19, 2002
Warren Spector and Amy Jo Kim on Games
[From PopTech] I've spent many, many hours playing the games Warren Spector has created. Deus Ex, for example, broke ground in providing an open, interactive playground. Also, things blew up real good.
Spector says gaming isn't what we think. It's not usually a solitary activity. And violent games aren't just about violence but also about thinking, planning, acting and reacting. Finally, games are not apart from the real world but are part of the real world,
Spector says we'll see more user-generated content. "Will Wright [The Sims] is the best game designer in the business." And we'll see more "virtual affiliation."
Games, Spector says, can be art. His are commercial and reality-based, he says, but they can be art.
The exciting new trend is "shared authorship," as opposed to games in which you decipher the single author's intention. Spector finds Grand Theft Auto 3 "reprehensivle" in its content but the game play is revolutionary. "The negotiated narrative" is unique to games as a mass medium. Spector gets chills thinking about the way in which games will allow us to assume personae, interact and grow.
Plus, the screen shots from Deus Ex 2 look great.
Soundbyte: "Our tools are pathetic. Try having a character smile in a game. It's insanely hard. We have four control points. Try getting a tear to role down a character's cheek."
Amy Jo Kim is now at a stealth startup called "there." "What's going on in gaming today is what you're going to see in the rest of technology in 3-5 years."
She laid out the basics of online gaming and pointed out how complex and rich the social networks around online games typically become, including "self-organizing fan ecosystems." She told us about the development of The Sims. Very interesting. For example, Maxi (the Sims' creator) noticed that people started telling one another stories about their characters. So Maxi facilitated this by allowing users to upload their stories for sharing with others.
During the Q&A, moderated by Dan Gillmor, Kim and Spector disagreed over the future of fan sites. Maxi
(The Sims) has encouraged fan sites and the degelopment of new content for their games. Spector thinks that as gaming brands grow, fan sites will increasingly be attacked by game makers.
10/19/2002 01:46:39 PM | PermaLink
Bloggers Blogging PopTech
JD is blogging the conference here. And Ernie the Attorney (sitting right next to me) is blogging it realtime here - he's doing a great job. Dan Gillmor is doing "running notes" here.
10/19/2002 11:27:49 AM | PermaLink
Alvy Ray Smith on Digital Actors
[From PopTech] Alvy Ray Smith has won two Oscars for technical achievement and was the founder of Pixar. He gave a terrific presentation on a single idea: "The simulation of human actors will not happen at any known time in any known way." Smith addressed the question in a far more interesting way than I'd expected. Yes, says Smith, there are technical issues that will be overcome via Moore's Law. But, the more important issue is that acting is an art.
Using as his reference Antonio Demassio's "The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness", Smith made the case that machines can't have consciousness and thus can't do what actors do. They therefore can't generate graphical representations of convincing actors: There can't be a "React to the De Niro character's confession of adultery" subroutine that results in the good acting that Streep would do because that would require consciousness. Ray thinks that in his lifetime we will see a convincing feature film that's entirely digital, but it will be done by digitally representing a live actor. (In fact, Pixar hires animators based on their acting ability.)
Killer soundbyte #1, on the assumption that we'll build conscious machines: "It's a leap of faith that many people here are willing to take, but I call it faith-based science."
Killer soundbyte #2 on why Pixar has so far backed off of representing humans: "We have a word for almost human but not quite: It's 'monster.'"
Killer soundbyte #3: "Reality begins at 80 million polygons." Per frame. Toy Story had 5-6M polygons per frame, and Toy Story 2 had double that. "Then you have to model reality and map it onto those polygons." Woody had 100 controls in face. Al, the most complex guy in Toy Story 2, had a thousand. For an accurate human representations it might be hundreds of thousands.
This session alone (pairing Ray and Stookey) would make the conference worthwhile. The presentations and the Q&A session were thought-provoking, centered on issues that matter, funny and moving. (Kudos to John Sculley's moderating.)
10/19/2002 11:05:37 AM | PermaLink
Paul Stookey Sings
[From PopTech] Paul Stookey, the Paul of Peter, Paul and Mary, opened Saturday morning with a great set. "Virtual Party" is intensely clever and "Love Rules" is genuinely moving.
Killer soundbyte: "The sweetest thing I've learned on the computer is lower case."
10/19/2002 09:49:08 AM | PermaLink
Friday, October 18, 2002
The Experience Economy
[From PopTech] Joe Pine, the author of "The Experience Economy," tells us that "experiences are a distinct form of economic output, as distinct from services as services are distinct from goods." He takes as his example the American Girl store in Chicago where they don't just sell American Girl dolls but provide an entire entertainment experience with a stage show and a perfectly dainty little world to play-act in. I've seen a video of the store and it certainly seemed like a great example of selling experiences, but also seemed like a sign of the coming collapse of civilization. That is, it made Davey-kins wanna pwuke.
Pine admirably includes a discussion of the objection to his theme. He says that when he was teaching in The Netherlands, every time he gave a talk, someone would say, "You Americans...you like your experiences phony and packaged, but we like ours real." Pine replies that because all experience is internal, it is all equally real. This is pretty unsatisfying, so he continues, quite amusingly, to point out that all of The Netherlands is unnatural. It's below freaking sea level, after all.
[Nevertheless, there is a difference between cultivating the earth and creating a calculated environment intended to simulate another human-made environment; there is a difference between The Netherlands and the "Dutch village" at Disney Epcot. - DW]
Pines ends with the good point that businesses can't give you authentic experiences because businesses want to get your money. But his advice is "Get real," which raises more questions than it answers. But his half hour is up.
Pines is a good speaker and looking at modern commerce as often being about the creating of an experience is a useful lens. But, in listening to him I find myself pulling back precisely because of the issue he raised at the end: authenticity. At just about any restaurant in France, you'll have a great experience because the chefs and the waiters are committed to providing excellent food and excellent service in a space well designed for the social act of eating. They are focused on the food and the service, not on the experience. On the other hand, at The Olive Garden in the US, the food, service and space is in the service of creating a particular experience, that of a lusty, rustic Italian restaurant. If we no longer can tell the difference because "everything is an experience," then we ought to start carrying our own laugh tracks with us. Oh, and theme music.
10/18/2002 04:38:33 PM | PermaLink
Worlds of Amusement
[From PopTech] The afternoon led off with two interesting presentations, moderated by MIT Good Guy, Henry Jenkins.
Lauren Rabinovitz talked about the social importance of amusement parks at the turn of the previous century when there were 1,500 of them. By 1920, 75% had closed. She presented lots of interesting ideas about a phenomenon I know nothing about. For example, rides weren't at the heart of them at first, in part because the mechanics weren't sophisticated enough. But when rides did come to prominence, they enabled people to reverse the usual human-machine relationship, giving themselves over to the machine.
Gerard Jones has a great resume as a comic book writer, video game designer and lots more; his current book is "Killing Monsters." Movies, he says, always created world liberated from physics and from propriety. Comic books create a different type of world. He discusses both in light of what social and psychological roles they enable readers/viewers to play: "the second self," "the other," etc. Also lots of good insights. E.g., in the '50s, the layout of comic books became much more rationalized and linearity, matching the political and social change. He said we don't yet know what the form of video games will be, but many games are ominious, playing on a fear of what danger is lurking behind the door. [Definitely. But also the chaotic, in-public mayhem of Grand Theft Auto 3. Not to mention The Sims.]
10/18/2002 02:51:56 PM | PermaLink
[From PopTech] Dressed in a hippie's idea of respectable - purple pants, multihued shirt, sun belt buckle, painted klogs - Rheingold eloquently makes the case that hopeful and unpredictable phenomena emerge from simple technology. His example is, of course, "smart mobs": the social organization that springs up around cell-phone text messaging. Much hinges, he says, on the emergence of trust and mechanisms for managing reputations.
Rheingold ended by asking: Will those mobile technologies be shaped by users or will we be tuend back into consumers?
During the Q&A, he said that online is a great place for people to express themselves but a bad place to make decisions. He also said that rule-less places are fine, but some sites need rules, e.g., no personal attacks allowed. (Both points conform with my experience.)
Buzz Bruggeman just asked Rheingold if real-time blogging and other smart-mobbish behavior might have a chilling effect on things like conferences where bloggers are blogging while speakers are speaking. Howard's response: "I would think it would have a chilling effect on bullshit." Laughter and applause.
10/18/2002 11:43:54 AM | PermaLink
Bali Help, 1:1
Stavros the Wonder Chicken has been blogging about his friend who was badly hurt in the Bali bombing. On his home page you'll find a way to chip in some money to help defray his friend's medical costs.
10/18/2002 11:23:32 AM | PermaLink
[From PopTech]: Kurzweil is an excellent speaker. Wicked smart. Primarily he made the case that the rate of innovation, and the rate of "paradigm shifts" (in quotes because he doesn't mean the term in Kuhn's sense) is increasing. Then he paints a picture of life in ten and twenty years: By 2010, computers will disappear will write directly to the retina and we'll be able to dip into virtual reality whenever we want. By 2029, we will have reversed engineered the human brain, and nanobots will do the red pill thing of putting our brain fully into the virtual world. And, of course, we will have computers large enough to hold an entire set of data about a brain. The brain is hardware, and by 2029, says Kurzweil, we'll have deciphered the brain's software.
I got to ask him my question from the audience. I said last summer I stood in a wheatfield that 100M stalks of wheat. If we take left-leaning is on and right-leaning as off, for 5 minutes, that wheatfield completely represented Casear's brain state when he was stabbed. So, I asked, it seems to me that hw-sw is entirely the wrong paradigm for the brain, intelligence, consciousness. (Unfortunately, I chose not to draw the explicit connection, in order to save time, and thus sounded like a lunatic.) So, I asked Kurzweil, how confident he is that by 2029 - given the rate of p aradigm change he pointed to - the sw-hw paradigm of the brain will still be in effect.
Kurzweil replied by distinguishing intelligence and consciousness. Whether machines will be conscious is a philosophical question that he stays away from. [Well, not in The Age of Spiritual Machines.] But, he said, he'll make a political prediction: we will take computers as conscious, "because if we don't, they'll get mad at us." Plus, he said, our consciousness will be augmented by computers so the line will be fuzzier.v
I remain convinced that the brain is no more hardware and software than the liver is. The issue is that software is symbolic. The eight light switches in my house have on and off states, but they only become a byte of information if I choose to take them that way. And the specific number the byte represents depends on my deciding to read from the top floor down, bottom up, east to west or west to east. A computer that mirrors the brain state only does so because we have supplied symbolic meaning to it. It thus is a picture of a brain but is not a thinking machine. That's what I think, anyway
Killer soundbyte from Kurzweil: The genomic information about the brain is 12 million bytes of compressed data, "smaller than Microsoft Word."
10/18/2002 11:06:02 AM | PermaLink
I'm at PopTech in purposefully picturesque Camden, Maine. We're five minutes from the official opening. I'm sitting next to Ernie the Attorney, the webloggin' lawyer, part of a delightful dinner party last night. I drove up with Pito Salas, which was a total treat. I also got to talk with people like Howard Rheingold, Dan Gillmor, Buzz Bruggeman, etc. etc. (I hate doing lists like this because I have a terrible memory and thus end up slighting people I care about.) So, so far I'm a happy guy. (Not to mention that they've got wifi. Woohoo!)
PopTech is a techno-humanist conference, this year focused on "artificial worlds," a topic I will undoubtedly find annoying in the best sense.
I hope not to do continuous blogging. For me it gets in the way of listening. See you later.
10/18/2002 09:05:10 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, October 17, 2002
Tom Wilson has a kickass article on knowledge management in Information Research. This is from the abstract:
10/17/2002 10:59:14 AM | PermaLink
Gen. Zinni on Why the Iraqi War Will Be Harder than W Thinks
Salon links to a frank keynote given by retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni. Zinni is the "former head of Central Command for U.S. forces in the Middle East, who has worked recently as the State Department's envoy to the region with a mission to encourage talks between Palestinians and Israelis." The talk is surprising for two reason:
First, it is quite critical of the Bush administration for being naive about a war with Iraq.
Second, someone apparently did a search and replace on the article, turning every instance of "question" into "Ambassardor Edward S. Walker." As a result, we get sentences that begin "The Ambassador Edward S. Walker becomes how to sort out your priorities," and a question from the audience becomes:
(Salon is also running an interesting interview with him for paid subscribers.)
10/17/2002 09:31:44 AM | PermaLink
Blog Mottos (= Blottos?)
Bryan Field-Elliot of PingID suggests at NetMeme some proverbs for our times.
This has similarities to Gary Turner's Blogstickers, which I mention primarily so I can say:
Great minds link alike.
10/17/2002 09:30:45 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
A Blogger Code of UnProfessional Ethics
I love you, Doc.
Some mighty fine blogging on this topic going on over at AKMA's place. For example, he writes: "When we’ve been most effectively seduced, we’re not aware of it ourselves." As they say in churches around the land: Bingo!
Also, I am reminded of Chris Pirillo's Blogger's Manifesto from February '02 (as well as my parody of it).
10/16/2002 08:41:23 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Why I Can't Ever Tell the Truth about Microsoft, Ever
To satisfy the requirements of the new Standards of Integrity and Professional Ethics for bloggers (for a discussion, see Dave, Doc and Mitch), I am hereby posting all the influences Microsoft has had on me, pro and con.
(PS: When Dave asks, "It's a matter of what kind of blogging we want -- do we want it to be sloppy or crisp," my answer is an emphatic yes.)
10/15/2002 08:20:35 PM | PermaLink
A Poem by Ani DiFranco
Chip just sent me this poem by Ani DiFranco that apparently she's reading at all her concerts now.
SELF EVIDENT by Ani DiFranco
10/15/2002 02:22:22 PM | PermaLink
Dept. of Pointless Statistics
According to Masha Geller's MediaPost column today, a report from WebMergers says that the dot-com failure rate has "declined dramatically":
And here's what I expect tomorrow's headline to be:
Leisure Suits Dominate 21st Century Fashion
10/15/2002 08:40:53 AM | PermaLink
Welcome Young Pink!
Jessica Pink did just one thing yesterday: gave birth to baby Saul. The world's already a better place for it.
Mazel tov to Dan, Jessica and the three little Pinks.
10/15/2002 08:23:52 AM | PermaLink
If Marketing Invented Networking...
...we'd be measuring transmission speeds not in bits per second but in pages per hour.
10/15/2002 08:21:20 AM | PermaLink
The Ad Microsoft Won't Let You See
Microsoft posted a dumbass "testimonial" from someone (by coincidence, an attractive woman...what are the odds of that?!) who recounts why she switched from the Mac to XP. Everything about this "real life" testimonial is phony, starting with the faux voice:
After the page had begun circulating through mailing lists ("Can't they find even one real person to give a testimonial?"), Microsoft deleted it. We can't know the cause, but we can only hope that Microsoft recognized that such an obviously bogus ploy works against them.
Thank goodness for Google and its amazing feats of memory (= its cache).
10/15/2002 12:01:00 AM | PermaLink
Monday, October 14, 2002
Instant Idea Generator
(Thanks to Ian Poynter.)
10/14/2002 10:55:40 AM | PermaLink
Support Your Non-Local Peacenik
MoveOn.com makes it absurdly easy to give money to the campaigns of some of those brave souls who voted against the Gulf of Saddam bill that gives America's Stupidest President a free hand to start a war. It'd be a particular shame if Paul Wellstone were to lose his Senate seat over this, giving the Republicans control of all branches of the government.
10/14/2002 10:50:26 AM | PermaLink
New Isenberg Newsletter
David Isenberg has published a new issue of his always excellent newsletter. In this one, you can read about "the future of voice telephony," which is not about talking pachyderms but a software product from Global IP Sound that uses the Internet to transmit calls and does so with higher-quality audio than you'll get on a "real" phone.
10/14/2002 08:33:30 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, October 13, 2002
Bryan Field-Elliot's DIDW Recap
Bryan, CTO of PingID, has blogged his recap of DigitalID World. He captures it well. (PingID is a "member owned identity network," the sort of ID system that privacy-obsessed webheads would create ... and I mean this in the very best sense.)
I got to have a couple of beers and dinner with Bryan, a guy who's smart and open and interesting and doing good in the world. It's the type of semi-chance encounter that makes the real world fun on occasion. (Despite the nice things he says about me in his recap, it was useful to be reminded of what I said about digital IDs after two beers; I have no capacity for liquor and I'd forgotten. Surprisingly, I think I still agree with me!)
10/13/2002 11:55:15 AM | PermaLink
From the Why Would I Care Dept.? comes news that I've posted a review of Saturday Night Live on Blogcritics.org.
10/13/2002 11:54:52 AM | PermaLink
World's Smartest Person Makes Error
Although I'm frankly afraid of Marilyn Vos Savant, the World's Smartest Person, she is wrong in her column in Parade today.
Also correct: "My car ran over him but I have an alibi" which is known as a "defensive" construction, "Really? I thought he was speed bump because I'd done like nine tequilla shooters in a row, dude" which is known as a "penal" construction and "Sentences are like skid marks over the life the have just ended" which is called an "active" deconstruction.
But what I meant to say is this: Imagine two scenarios.
A. You are driving along an Arizona highway (which, by the way, is one of the great niche magazines). It's the middle of the night. You're tired. It's raining because you realize you're not on a straight highway in Arizona but a twisty swamp road outside of New Orleans. You feel a bump, stop the car, get out, and discover that you've run over a refugee from the Mardi Gras who fell asleep in the middle of the road. Did you "run someone over" or "run over someone"?
B. It turns out that Swamp Thing was sitting by the side of the road and saw you tenderize the meal he'd been eying. With a mighty, swamplike roar, Thing comes after you. You hop into the car and start to drive. Swamp Thing stands in the middle of the road. There's no way to turn around and reverse is broken. So, with a steely glint in your eye, you aim squarely at Swamp Thing. A sickening thud confirms that you..."ran him over" or "ran over him"?
A: You done run someone over.
B. You think you ran him over, but you can't be sure because of the pain from the steely glint in your eye.
So, go ahead, Marilyn, open up that can of whupsmartass on me. I may not be the World's Smartest Person, but at least I'm, um, well ... Hey, look over there!
10/13/2002 09:47:58 AM | PermaLink
Lessig Nears Optimism
Larry Lessig, The World's Most Pessimistic PersonTM, waxes almost optimistic in his blog discussing the Eldred case he argued in front of the Supremes a few days ago.
Lessig is more optimistic about the outcome of the Eldred case than other reports I'd read because he focuses more on what the Justices did not ask during the hour-long argument, an indication of what they had accepted.
Lessig's account presents the issues in a light that was to me — a non-lawyer — radically new and fascinating. Obviously this is must reading for anyone who cares about the future of copyright.
10/13/2002 09:22:22 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, October 12, 2002
The DigitalID World conference would have been a success for me even if I didn't go to any sessions because of who I got to hang around with. I even got to fly back with Jon Udell, whom I first met 15 years ago. I've been in awe of him since I began reading Byte over 20 years ago. We've had intermittent interactions, but never really had a chance to talk at length.
(Jon reminded me that the first time we met, I'd driven up to Byte's headquarters to demo a new Interleaf product, which meant schlepping a Sun workstation and monitor. But when I unpacked, I found that the optical mouse hadn't been included, and there were none to be found in the entire Byte offices. No demo. We laughed about it now, although Jon was laughing just a bit harder than I was.)
Anyway, we were talking about writing. Jon said how much pleasure he gets from shining the spotlight on other people. I talked about the unpleasant neurosis I share with many writers: the need to be the smartest person in the room. If I write about someone else's ideas, it's usually to "surpass" them by expanding on them, and sometimes to undercut them. This leads to a fundamental intellectual dishonesty in which ideas are more valuable if they're mine.
Most writers suffer from this disease for writing itself is often an act of arrogance: "Call on me! I've got something worth cutting down a tree for!" (Among politicians, Gore has the disease but Clinton does not; it's why Gore lost the debates to a moron.)
But, ah, the Web! The Web's architecture is hyperlinked. Every link sends readers away from your page. It encourages generosity as surely as writing for print facilitates arrogance.
As informal evidence of this, the one place I can consistently see threads of generosity in my own writing is in my weblog. I find it deeply satisfying to point to people who know more than I do, write better, have better ideas.
In at least this one regard, the Web has made me a better person.
(Yeah, you should have seen me before.)
10/12/2002 05:23:22 PM | PermaLink
Friday, October 11, 2002
Doc started with a joke that isn't really a joke at all: Instead of Digital IDs, why aren't we talking about digital Egos? At the center of this should be the self with all its vagaries, desires, and complexity. It was a great talk and should have come at the beginning of the conference because it raised issues we should have been talking about all along.
Doc covered a lot of territory (very entertainingly), but there are two points that stuck out for me.
First, he properly made the simple complex: our web identities are much richer and more intricate than what the digital ID folks are talking about. Doc took as his example RageBoy, Chris Locke's online alter ego. Doc talked about how RageBoy was born and how "he" exists via multiple links and identities. What makes us think we can manage these identities, Doc asks?
Total agreement and I was very glad to hear Doc say it. Maybe the best thing would be to keep Doc's sense of self conceptually apart from the type of self that the digital ID folks are talking about. They mean by identity something simple: a verifiable connection to a real world self and a way of negotiating transactions with that self. That's a serial number and a bunch of attributes, and that's about it. Real identities are incredibly messy, digital IDs should be as simple as a dog tag, and we'll be fine so long as we don't start to confuse the two.
Second, Doc said that since there's no user demand for digital ID, we need something that will "mother necessity," something that will make it catch fire with users. That not only seems right, but it illustrates just how alien digital ID seems to us messy selves.
Unfortunately, IMO there is demand for digital IDs but it's coming from the traditional content owners and will be driven from top down. Doc is more optimistic about this than I am these days. (Grant strength to Larry Lessig!)
Doc consistently says the things that need to be heard. What a generous and important voice. And it ended the conference on a definite high note.
10/11/2002 02:28:19 PM | PermaLink
Macauley v. Bono
Peter Kaminski points us to a brilliant speech given by Thomas Macauley in 1841 to Parliament as the question of copyright was being addressed. It's 10,000 words, but it is witty, thorough, deep and pithy. Man, that Macauley guy could really write good!
10/11/2002 11:23:50 AM | PermaLink
I was talking this morning with Mark Hallas, policy advisor to the government of Ontario, and he helped me understand why "federated" ID systems are an important topic here. I had thought that the draw of federation is that it enables identities spread across multiple applications and domains to be unified. But Mark explained that federation is important to him also because of the looseness of its binding of IDs. For example, one government system may need to check an ID in another system, perhaps in another province, to verify someone's age but should not have access to the rest of the information being stored. Federated systems can allow this type of filtered access.
10/11/2002 11:02:51 AM | PermaLink
Drummmon Reed, CTO of OneName Corp, talked about the XNS protocol his company has pioneered and is trying to get adopted broadly. XNS allows identity information to be expressed in XML documents and be linked, creating (as one of their papers says) "an Identity Web that can do for digital identities what the World Wide Web has done for content." Drummon said that this identity web will be capable of modeling the rich and complex interactions among identities via "contracts" based on an extensible set of attributes that includes permissions, purpose, policies on privacy and security, and signature.
Drummon listed the advantages of the system, including: global addressing and logical naming; access control and auditing; permission management; data sharing and versioning; persistent links; and workflow.
Sounds great, but I'm confused: Do we get these benefits because XNS is so extensible that it can handle the data usually handled by, say, a workflow system, or is it that a workflow system could use the identity services provided by XNS? Or both? If I came in knowing more, this would not be a question...
In speaking with other attendees, the main challenge facing XNS seems to be getting enough "traction" in the market since it requires large scale adoption to fulfill its promise. But I'm merely relying on the kindness of strangers when I say this. (Frank Paynter knows about this stuff and he's excited about XNS.)
10/11/2002 11:01:55 AM | PermaLink
Identity Business Models
Carol Coye Benson from Glenbrook Partners is giving an old fashioned, stand-up, Powerpointed talk. And she's very good.
People say that they want to be the "Visa of the identity business." But there's no equivalent in the identity business of the way the credit card system motivates merchants and issuing banks Also, transactions that are clear and simple with credit cards become unclear and complicated in the identity management world.
And, Carol says, there are no obvious non-transaction-based models.
Carol presents a second "bad idea": "The compulsive consumer fantasy" in which customers have complete control over the information disclosed in different contexts and will pay for the privilege. But this appeals only to the obsessive minority of users, so it's not going to happen on a scale sufficient to build a business.
So, where is money to be made? In the enterprise market. And there may be some opportunities for intermediaries, along the credit bureau model.
By the way, Carol says we'll have a variety of identities, not one clean, aggregated single identity. We'll have government-issued identities and employer-issued identities, ISP/bank-issued identities, etc. It's going to be messy. And that's a Good Thing.
10/11/2002 10:59:35 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, October 10, 2002
AKMA on the DayAKMA's blogging of the day at the DigitalID World conference is succinct, nuanced and finds the actually important points on which to comment. No blogarrhea on AKMA's site, unlike, um, here.
10/10/2002 07:49:28 PM | PermaLink
Digital Rights Management
I moderated this session and thus (ironically?) am unable to blog about its content in a trustworthy way. (Nathan Torkington has blogged a rough transcript of the session.)
The session was way too short and I found it frustrating not to be able to drive issues very deeply. My take-away was pretty depressing, from my point of view: there is a generally shared assumption here (as far as I can tell) that of course DRM is a technology issue, that so long as the technology allows for the enforcement of a wide range of usage policies, then the technology is itself neutral. But it's not. The transfer of the application of rules from humans to machines is not neutral. Software has no judgment. It is incapable of judging context or intention. We thus are going to get for digital content the dystopia we've been imagining for 100 years: an absolutist bureaucracy that believes that the perfect world is the one in which rules are enforced perfectly.
The DRM Paradox
I asked why we don't have DRM yet and one of the panelists said that it was because users are happy with things the way they are. I wanted to say - but didn't because I was the moderator - that you get a paradox if you put that together with what Doc Searls said yesterday: DRM won't take off until someone builds something that users actually want. Well, the market has spoken. DRM is a constriction. We don't want it. So it can only come into existence by being imposed, for it is doing to users something that we don't want done to us.
That's not to say that if the market wants free CDs, it should get free CDs. But it does at least mean that claiming that DRM is a user service is a crock. If it's something that, for the sake of establishing a sustainable marketplace, has to be crammed down the throat of users, then let's at least admit it. (But, see the next point...)
The DRM Fallacy
"The technology merely enables users and vendors to negotiate a license." "This is purely opt-in. If a user doesn't like a license agreement, he doesn't have to say yes."
These would be good arguments if the market weren't already skewed by an OS monopoly and a content cartel. "Opting out" of seeing Hollywood movies is like opting out of our culture. We can always be media hermits. Some choice.
(Chris RageBoy Locke, my friend and co-author, says that this focuses too much on Mass Media and ignores the many voices that will come from the grass roots. Definitely. But although mass media may not be the only source, it is one that people will continue to care about.)
10/10/2002 05:09:36 PM | PermaLink
Craig Mundie, Microsoft
Craig is CTO, Advanced Strategies and Policy for Microsoft. He's going to build the case for digital identity as central to the progress of the computer industry and the progress of computing itself.
He says MSFT got interested in "trusted computing" because they realized that if people no longer trusted their computers, they'd stop using computers. (Oddly, the notion that content owners could have access to what's on my computer makes me much less trustful.)
The "core tenets" of trustworthy computing, he says, are security, privacy, reliability and business integrity (i.e., the relationship of the vendor to the consumer).
Digital identity is a "building block" of trustworthy computing. It involves all four tenets. To get people to accept it -- and "MS identity technologies are opt-in by philosophy" -- they will have to be educated about the benefits.
["Opt-in" is a relative term. If in the future I need to use Microsoft Palladium to download Hollywood content, it is opt-in only if I'm willing to opt out of the entertainment mainstream.]
A MSFT product manager is about to give us a demo of a future feature of Passport that will tell you how secure the password you just created is. (Presumably, if you try to use your user name as a password or the words "password" or "god," the thing reaches out and physically slaps you.)
Now we're seeing a demo of how MSN8 enables parents to set up controls for what their children can do online. E.g., the parent can specify the subject areas of pages the child can see; it looked like a list of about 50 topics. Of course, filtering by topic is notoriously and conceptually unreliable. So, MSN lets the kid send an email to her parents asking for permission. (The MSFT guy calls it a "feedback loop.")
Craig is back. The demo was, in short, a waste of time.
He's now working on showing how deep and complex the issue of digital IDs is. IDs are needed not only for humans but also the identity of the machine and the software.
Digital Identity has many layers, he says:
a. Identity: collections of attributes, some provided by user, some inferred
As computers more deeply networked, DigitalID becomes even more necessary for the computers are more intimate with one another.
Good job of complexifying the issue. (I'm not being snarky. It's good to see how deep the waters are.)
Craig is announcing the "Passport Shared Source Release," releasing the code that enables other companies to integrate with Passport. Big deal. As fellow blogger Frank Paynter, sitting next to me, just whispered, Craig referred to this as "enhancing the ecosystem," which makes sense if you assume that Microsoft is the ecosystem.
Craig is wrapping up by talking about "future scenarios," that is, places where the digital ID tentacles need to reach. It's a pretty grainy list: Secure extranets and e-government, sure, but "DRM of corporate and personal documents" is ominous in its implications. Of course, this is no surprise. There is an inexorable logic to DRM: MP3s today, your email tomorrow. Of course, the obstacle to DRM of individual documents isn't the lack of digital IDs but the difficulty (impossibility?) of designing a user interface that doesn't feel like your office has been taken over by kafka-esque, form-wielding bureaucrats. Indeed, Craig is concluding that we will indeed see an increase in regulation over more and more of our lives, and we will have to work hard to come to the right balance.
And, he points out, this is a trans-national issue because of the nature of government.
Craig is obviously thoughtful, smart and reasonable. And it is reasonable for operating system companies to be involved in digital ID issues. That they should be locus of these efforts still strikes me as inappropriate as allowing providers of media pipes to control the content that flows through them.
[Phil Windley, CIO of Utah, has also blogged Mundie's speech.]
10/10/2002 12:34:42 PM | PermaLink
Thursday Morning General Session
(Still blogging from the DigitalID World conference. The aggregation of blogs is here.)
Esther Dyson, the moderator, begins the morning general session by asking the conference organizer why there's no list of attendees. (Actually, she began by graciously saying to this audience of 250 that in a few years, 800 people will claim to have been at the first Digital ID World conference.)
The panelists are Michael Calhoun, Principal of CSC Global Health Solutions and Nikolaj Nyholm, CTO of ASCIO Technologies.
The topic is how policy and practicality collide. Everyone, Esther says, is in favor of privacy and people controlling their own information. But what about transparency, i.e., people knowing the business model, the use of the data, who requested it, etc.?
Michael talks about HIPAA, federal legislation passed in '96 that required the Dept. of Social Services to come up with regulations for handling patient information across the health care industry. It says that the individual owns his/her health information, possibly to a degree that can be burdensome to good sense. And the data is "tagged" so that if it's given to a third party, there are still agreements about how it can be used.
Esther summarizes nicely: Europe is a bureaucratic culture while the US is a legalistic one. Nikolaj says that US law is very binary: you'll get your ass sued if you get it wrong. Just as security isn't binary, he says, - it's all about risk management - so, too, HIPAA will not provide binary, perfect privacy but can help enforce it.
Esther, the acknowledged master of moderating panels, has now asked all the people lined up to state their questions before the panel addresses them. As a result, themes emerge and some questions that are not as helpful will undoubtedly fall by the wayside. Nice technique.
Jon Udell of InfoWorld asks if HIPAA can actually be implemented and if it will be extraordinarily expensive. Michael replies that the answer is Yes to both questions. The "drop dead" date for implementation is April '03 and it's going forward.
Esther's closing comments: Most of the information about her hasn't been gathered from transactions. It's what has been written about her, what she's written, emails, etc. "In the future, we'll all have about as much privacy as a rock star." We need transparency to enable us to fight against the invasions we don't want.
10/10/2002 12:10:32 PM | PermaLink
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
Excellent Eldred Summary
Here's a clear (and depressing) account of Larry Lessig's day in court.
10/9/2002 07:46:59 PM | PermaLink
This session (at the DigitalID World conference) was entirely conversational which is great to listen to but hard to summarize. Phil Becker, the moderator, is doing a terrific job of keeping the flow going.
Now he's pushing on Microsoft as having the worst reputation on which to build trust relationships. The Microsoft guy replies that they're trying to do all the right things, that Palladium lets the user control her/his own privacy, and Media Player 9 asks you out of the box how you want to set your privacy settings. (I've already written too much today about Palladium, but touting the settings screen of Media Player is really pretty lame, even as part of a list of steps Microsoft has taken. If Microsoft really wanted to do the right thing, it would support standards and independent authentication systems.)
An audience member asks: Can I delete my Passport identity from the Microsoft database if I want to? The Microsoft guy replies Yes (I think that's what he said), but points out that deleting an ID raises a whole new set of issues such as: How do you recreate an identity you deleted by mistake? (Why not just put up a bunch of warnings to make sure you're not deleting it by mistake?)
An audience member says that the biggest thing eroding consumer trust is spam because we have the sense that our personal information is being picked up and used. This doesn't seem right to me. Sure, spam means that your email address is being shopped, but the spam is so random that it's clear the spammers know so little about who I am that I feel my time has been invaded but not my privacy.
Audience member: Does Microsoft get value from Passport? Microsoft's answer: It enables Web services; MSN needs an authentication service; Microsoft sells more servers because of it.
Good question, and it was a crisp, blunt answer; Microsofties are usually really likeable. Yet the answer didn't convince me that there are no other reasons why Microsoft wants to be in the identity management business. The reply was short, of course, so maybe there's more to be said. Nevertheless, Microsoft getting into the trust business is a new definition of chutzpah. That they don't see this is continually surprising for a company so savvy about customers.
10/9/2002 07:24:04 PM | PermaLink
Open Source Identity
This panel was over my head technically, but I got my money's worth from a single comment from Doc Searls, the moderator. He said that none of this identity stuff will happen until someone comes up with an application that isn't pushed on users but that users actually want. I thought I heard some glubs as various software strategies sank under the weight of their own presumption.
If you're interested in the Open Source Identity topic, Denise Howell has blogged the session well.
There is a discussion board where you can talk about the ridiculous and wrong things I'm saying.
10/9/2002 07:14:17 PM | PermaLink
Great Eldred Pun
David Isenberg in a posting to a mail list notes that one of the headlines calls the case against the Sonny Bono Copyright Law that Larry Lessig today argued in front of the Supreme Court "Sonny v. Share."
10/9/2002 06:12:50 PM | PermaLink
Already too much to blog. I'm sitting in a session I came late to because I was engrossed in a conversation with Peter Biddle, a leader of the Microsoft Palladium team. He's an engineer and a partisan and able to remain good-natured even while being, um, pounded. Gives as good as he gets. I felt like we actually got down to some basic issues. Thank you, Peter: you're a good guy.
Palladium is a Microsoft initiative that will bring high security to your PC. It will act as a vault for contents and enable users and "content providers" to negotiate terms of usage. Palladium is neutral about those usage terms. It'll enforce any that are agreed upon.
I'm reluctant to present Peter's point of view since he has been thinking about this for a long and is quite eloquent. Nevertheless, I'm going to. As I understood the conversation, we got down to this: Peter is designing Palladium to be neutral to usage policies but also capable of enforcing them. So, if Eminem says that you can download his new song but you can play it once for $5 and ten times for $10, then, fine, Palladium will Make It So. And if Joe Mahoney says you can download his new song and play it as much as you like, but you can't resell it digitally, then that's just as fine. Palladium is neutral to policy. Yet, once terms are agreed upon, it builds that policy into the computing architecture (as Denise Howell put it during our conversation).
And that's one of two problems I have with Palladium. The real world is enriched by the leeway that's inevitable in it. Even as we assert our "intellectual property" rights over our ideas and expressions, we know that in the real world those rights are often unenforceable. For example, a report from Forrester Research may have "Do not photocopy" at the bottom of every page, but you won't get sued if you run off a couple of copies of the graph on page 110 to use at an internal meeting. We make these decisions all the time, and the world is richer for it. Further, as Denise pointed out, when there are infractions worth prosecuting, we have human judges and a legal system that comes to reasonable (usually) decisions. Implementing policy in silicon drives the leeway out of the system.
My second problem is that Palladium may be neutral in its architecture but it is being born into a world that isn't neutral. Content has been locked up by gigantic, greedy, stupid companies (mainly headquartered near Hollywood) and the company producing Palladium has been declared a monopoly. If Palladium becomes the only way that the entertainment industry can sell digital content according to strictly enforced rules of usage, then Microsoft will become the de facto entertainment player, forging the "unholy alliance" that so many of us fear. The fact that Microsoft is not committed to producing Palladium across multiple platforms in a timely way is certainly unsettling.
There was nothing that I said, with the help of Denise, that Peter hasn't heard before. His response was surprising to me. Palladium won't really lock down content that well, he said. Pirates will still be able to get unlocked copies of whatever they want. You'll still be able to find a copy of the latest Eminem song to download because some hacker somewhere will crack the encryption. My response was that Palladium will eliminate the gray area so that those who download a song will have to become pirates. Peter, of course, thinks that we're already pirates, so that got nowhere.
Ultimately, I think you have to ask what world will be better, one with enforceable usage rights that drive out the leeway and hard-codify fair use, or one in which there's reasonable (and even unreasonable) leeway where some genuine piracy happens, a lot of genuine cash-for-use happens, and a whole bunch in between goes on at every level of society.
My preference is obvious. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that it's right and it sure doesn't mean that it's persuasive.
10/9/2002 05:00:45 PM | PermaLink
Phil Windley, CIO of Utah is talking about the complex ways in which governments deal with ioentities, from birth certificates to death certificates.
He points out that vehicle titles are in a one-to-one relationship with the vehicles: each vehicle has one and only one title. Why? Because people want government to track this. But government has abdicated its responsibility as an issuer of digital signatures, which is why they're not as useful as they should be.
But (Phil says) people want the services that a government-based identity program could bring. For example, supose you move to Utah. There's a long list of things you have to do, from registering your car to enrolling to vote to getting tax information. Utah wants to give you a single site where you say you're moving to the state, pay one tax, and everything gets done. But this is hard to do because the various information apps are not connected. (In Utah, your name can be in over 200 different databases.)
Phil just netted it out:
Governments are in the identity business but don't recognize it.
Governments have abdicated their responsibility.
Digital certificates are not the answer.
Citizens are fearful of government collection of data but still demand the connected services that require that aggregation.
The real problem is that these are public policy questions and technology can't solve them, Phil says.
FWIW, Phil comes across as smart, honest, open, passionate and likeable...the model of what you want a government person to be.
10/9/2002 01:29:28 PM | PermaLink
The general session presentation by a guy from GM is in process. After spending too long telling us that GM is a big, honking company, he's talking about "identity as a business issue." But so far he's pointed to two basic situations where identity management would help: First, consolidating information about customers so that the dealer has access to the same information as the marketing department, etc.; Second, consolidating the six different identities (= email addresses?) the speaker has at GM.
This type of consolidation of customer information is the standard benefit of application integration that's been touted for years. Certainly it's valuable and important (and just a little bit scary), but it's not what I think of as central the issues of digital IDs: the creation of a permanent, traceable link from Web presence to the real world body sitting in front of the monitor, and vice versa. Yeah, of course we want to consolidate our customer information. But do we want a digital ID across companies? Who manages it? Who controls it and the record that it accretes? That's what I'm here to learn about. Maybe he'll get to it...
Nah, now he's telling us why automating processes over the Web saves GM yada yada bucks. Presumably his standard presentation.
Now he's getting to it! Three major digital ID issues.
1. Single sign-on is no longer GM's focus. Other factors have taken precedence at GM, including security and privacy. GM feels it needs a more comprehensive approach, rather than focusing on single sign-on by itself.
2. They've joined the Liberty Alliance, which is the everyone-but-Microsoft response to Redmond's attempt to own digital ID management. But he just said that the Liberty Alliance has nothing to do with countering Microsoft. (Bushwa! As if there's anything wrong with countering Microsoft on this!)
Hmm, I don't know what the third thing was.
Take-away: GM is doing lots of interesting things webbing people together. The question of digital ID for them comes down to how they can consolidate information about the variegated interactions each customer and employee has.
If I got this wrong, other bloggers will get it right. And you'll let me know about it I'm sure.
10/9/2002 12:26:32 PM | PermaLink
At DigitalID World
I just got in, an hour late. (And I had to get up at 4:30AM to be this late. Sigh.) So I missed the opening presentation. But I'll be able to get the gist from the many blogs being written here. For example, Denise covers it really well. Nice on-the-fly writing!
But we're off to a great start: I ran into AKMA at the airport so we took a cab here. In the hall at registration was Eric Norlin, high on ideas and DayQuil. AKMA opened the door to the hall where the keynotes are being given and who's sitting on the aisle but Doc, I believe next to Denise Howell (whom I've never met). This will be fun. [I just read Doc's blog, and, yes, he says he's sitting next to Denise. Howdy, Denise!
I'll be blogging the conference for the Boston Globe over at DigitalMass. Sorry to split between two sites, but I'm a writer so I like to be published. (No, I don't know the relationship between globe.com and digitalmass.com. There is some relationship. If I had to guess, I'd say that digitalmass is the tech site for globe.com)
One good incidental effect of the Globe.com system is that they aren't yet set up to let me post directly, so I have to do it by sending email to their very helpful Web guy. So, I'll have to do batch posting as opposed to real time blogging. This is good because it will discipline me into writing retrospective chunks ("Watch out, dude, that guy just spewed retrospective chunks!") rather than a set of running notes; I tend to get unreflective when taking notes.
The guy from GM is now talking, describing the complexities of GM's IT/Web infrastructure: over 2M subscribers to thheir Business Web, etc.
Wait, I'm doing running notes! Noooooooo!
10/9/2002 11:48:36 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
Joe Mahoney's Table
Some very nice writing over at Joe M's blog about a dinnertime conversation that is chaotic yet all about one thing.
By the way, if you wonder if Joe's family table talk is really so literate and civil, the answer is: Yup.
10/8/2002 01:57:02 PM | PermaLink
Blogging Digital ID World
I've started blogging the Digital ID World conference in Denver that I go to tomorrow. The blog is here at DigitalMass.
10/8/2002 11:28:23 AM | PermaLink
Places to go
Gary Turner is starting an anthology of quotations from unfamous people (where fame is defined by mass culture or acceptance into the Canon of Important People). For example, from Marek we have, among other bon mots, "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off." Gary is soliciting contributions.
Euan TheObvious Semple responds to my blog about the way in which the Internet is like my brain by wondering if the Internet could convey moods.
Kevin Werbach is pumping up the Supernova conference, Dec. 9-10, in Palo Alto: "Software, communications, and media are decentralizing, tearing apart industries with the force of a supernova." A great list of people are presenting, including Doc, Clay Shirky, Jeremy Allaire, Dave Winer, Howard Rheingold, Cory Doctorow and David Isenberg. I'm probably going to mosey on over and be on a panel myself. (Hmm, are there any circumstances in which flying 3,000 miles in a pressurized tube can count as "moseying"?)
10/8/2002 10:25:22 AM | PermaLink
The Narcoleptic President
I listened to the first half of W's speech on the radio. Then I switched to TV because his performance was so lackluster, his tone so monotonous. It was worse watching him. My working hypothesis: Before he went on, W said he really wished he weren't a recovering alcoholic so he could have a drink "jes' to steady mah nerves," so the White House doctor gave him a mild sedative.
As for the substance: It's beneath contempt. Sorry to write him off, but by now we know how his mind works. For any problem, he can hold on to only one solution. No matter how the situation changes or what the evidence is, that one solution is the right one. A massive - and massively unbalanced - tax cut was the right policy when we had a huge surplus and it's the right solution when we have growing deficits. Overthrowing Saddam is the right thing so we will come up with evidence to support it. It isn't dialogue. It isn't even thinking. If W weren't president, there would be no reason to waste a moment listening to him.
10/8/2002 07:50:14 AM | PermaLink
The new issue of David Isenberg's Smart Letter is not only must reading for anyone who uses telephones but is also a delight to read, beginning with Buckminster Fuller's explanation of why pirates had a better business model than kings. At issue is what's right and wrong in the fundamental stance of George Gilder, the telecommunications guru. But David uses that to dig into the roots of the telecommunications industry and its coming meltdown.
Now compare that with a recent conversation the FCC sponsored in which the operating assumption is that the only way to ensure continuity of service and innovation is to prop up the current telco cadavers.
Isenberg for FCC Chair!
10/8/2002 07:44:44 AM | PermaLink
Monday, October 07, 2002
Outrage Formula: 2
Dethe Elza of Living Code comments in an email on The Outrage Formula in which I agreed with a column by Charles Jacobs in the Boston Globe that says the predictor for which acts of oppression outrage us isn't the plight of the victims but our sense of identity with the oppressors.
Dethe insists on making a complex matter complex:
I totally agree that there are multiple factors at play. The question is whether the sense of identity is actually the predictor. For example, there are lots of repressive regimes that my government gives aid to, yet we aren't as angry at them as many of us are at Israel.
I probably lost an argument about this on Saturday because as you try to test the hypothesis with historical examples, matters get pretty durn fuzzy: How outraged were we at what point about the killing fields of Cambodia? How angry were we about Franco and how repressive do we count him as being? We're furious about Castro but seem not to give a sweet fig about murderous right-wing regimes in Latin/South America. It's a tough hypothesis to test because — as Delthe makes clear — it's a messy, complex world.
Nevertheless, I like the original op-ed piece because it tries to explain what I believe is a fact: most thoughtful anti-Israel actions in the US are not motivated by anti-Semitism despite what so many of my fellow Jews believe. And if you can't tell the difference between someone who thinks Israel's reaction to 40 years of aggression is disproportionate and unwise and someone who just hates Jews, then you've lost an important moral distinction.
10/7/2002 12:38:49 PM | PermaLink
Small Pieces Reviewed
Richard Seltzer at B&R Samizdat Express has reviewed Small Pieces Loosely Joined, quite enthusiastically.
Richard reviews a wide variety of books. I'm in the middle of Fagles' new translation of The Iliad and found Richard's review both learned and helpful, a rare combination. (Think I'm just reciprocating? Read some of his reviews for yourself, you cynical, jaded, suspicious, person! Take "Trying to Enjoy Bellow" as a fr'instance.)
I'm going to be the guest on his chat board Nov. 21. Details here.
10/7/2002 08:53:44 AM | PermaLink
My Brain on the Internet
Someone heard me on CNET radio over the weekend and was stimulated to send me an email suggesting that the Internet is becoming conscious. I think the Internet lacks two essential ingredients: First, consciousness has everything to do with the ability to pay attention, and attention requires that we care about ourselves and our world. Second, consciousness needs a body because thought isn't a formal process. Nevertheless, there are some important ways in which the Internet and consciousness are similar. For example:
10/7/2002 08:36:40 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, October 06, 2002
Three Worth Reading
AKMA is clear and thought-provoking once again, this time ostensibly on the nature of confiding but actually on the importance of trust versus rules.
Tom M. compares knowledge and vines. Fibrous and foliated writing!
Knowing my family's religious commitment to the Simpsons, Kevin Marks passes along a link to an article that carefully explains why Bart is not a Nietzschean Ubermensch.
10/6/2002 10:54:03 AM | PermaLink
A Parable in Search of a Meaning
We've had four loose 2" tiles in our bathroom for a year. Every couple of months I try a different way of cementing them in. Every couple of months they loosen and come out again. Two days ago, I scraped their backs down to the original tile and chiseled the wood to which they attach in order to get a nice, clean fix.
They are already loose.
This morning I woke up, trembling with excitement, for I have realized how to fix them for good.
I'm going to buy a throw rug.
10/6/2002 10:34:37 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, October 05, 2002
The Outrage Formula
Two million people have been killed in Sudan over the past ten years, "more than in Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda and Burundi combined." One hundred thousand refugees were intentionally starved to death. As a result of a "Taliban-like Muslim regime" that is "waging a self-declared jihad on African Christians and followers of tribal faiths in South Sudan," the slave trade has even started up again.
No matter where you stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is no denying that the Sudanese government is far worse than even the most right-wing Israeli government.
So, why do the US media report daily on Israel but not Sudan? Why are anti-Israeli actions common on US college campuses but there's nary a word about Sudan? Is anti-Semitism the only way to explain the disparity?
That never seemed right to me. Oh, sure, there are big chunks of the world where Jew-hatred is taught early and often. But I know too many people outraged by Israel who are not anti-Semitic. I am one of them. (Spare me your email on the topic; I am also outraged by the Palestinians and the Arab states. In fact, I don't like anyone.)
A column by Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, in the Boston Globe today explains it so clearly that I felt like I must have known this all along:
This is a type of racism, of course, but it is not the expected one — not anti-Semitism but a feeling of identity with the Israelis; a society that is generally white, educated and democratic stands for us generally white, educated and democratic people. Nor is it the more pernicious racism of "expecting more of the Israelis." It is our sense of identity with the oppressor, not our racist antipathy, that makes us pay more attention.
Which is a way of saying that "Not in my name" is not a worthy moral response. ... unless and until our name includes all people.
10/5/2002 10:51:14 AM | PermaLink
Friday, October 04, 2002
2002 Ig Nobel Prizes
I went with my family to the annual Ig Nobel Awards last night. The Ig Nobels, honoring scientific achievements "that cannot or should not be reproduced," are the brainchild of Marc Abrahams, editor of The Annals of Improbable Research, a humor magazine that is somehow related to the old Journal or Irreproducible Results. (AIR's free newsletter is quite funny.)
I'd been to an Ig Nobels about eight years ago and it is as studiously zany as ever, from the continuous fusillade of paper airplanes showering the stage to the ostensibly sweet 11 year old who serves as time monitor by repeating "Please stop. I'm bored" monotonously until the offender steps away from the microphone.
The awards themselves are very funny, and because they come from the scientific community — genuine Nobelists escort the winners to the lectern — they're not offensive the way Sen. Proxmire's Golden Fleece awards were. The winners, who flew in from around the world at their own expense, are uniformly good natured, although I'm not convinced that the Japanese inventors of a dog-to-human translator understood they were being mocked. On the other hand, given the laughter, the paper airplanes and the intentional cheesiness of the event (the prize itself consists of chattering teeth on a stick), it'd be a prize-worthy achievement not to figure it out.
So, we had some laughs. But mainly I thought my family would enjoy the sudden immersion in the world of seriously geeky scientists at play. Entertainment or anthropology field trip? You be the judge.
10/4/2002 09:45:46 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, October 03, 2002
According to the "compromise" the Congress has worked out with the Bush adminstration "limiting" Bush's ability to wage war against Iraq, "The president would also be required to inform Congress in advance of a military strike or no later than 48 hours after the attack," reports the Boston Globe.
Two days after Bush has started bombing Bhagdad he's going to have to mention it to Congress? Wow, that's strict! Maybe he can just write a letter to the editor in The Washington Post to let them know that he's started a war.
At least this opens up a new alternative power source: attach generators to the Founding Fathers as they spin in their graves.
10/3/2002 12:13:17 PM | PermaLink
From Peter Kaminski, one of the leading sources of leads to sources, comes a page with links to the world newspapers he likes to read. And there's more here.
And, in English to see how we look to others:
Of course, don't leave out the three most essential sources of news: 1. The Onion, 2. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and 3. Rumors that support what you already believe.
10/3/2002 11:27:40 AM | PermaLink
Jerry the Debunker
The estimable Jerry Michalski has started a wiki (= gang-edit) page to debunk "common sense" misunderstandings such as that good fences make good neighbors and that "My country right or wrong" means you should support your country when it's doing what's wrong.
10/3/2002 10:22:48 AM | PermaLink
Me on CNET
I was interviewed bythe CNET WebTalkGuys a couple of days ago. It will air on Saturday. You can hear it here with the RealAudio player or here with the Windows Media Player.
They asked good question, to which I responded, as best as I can recall, like a rambling, self-important asshole.
Here's info from the WebTalkGuys about play times for the actual broadcast:
If I really suck, there's not any requirement that in the spirit of frankness you must tell me so.
10/3/2002 10:04:58 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
An Ad I'd Like to See
Dan Gillmor writes about the semi-hopeful sign that Apple hasn't jumped into bed with the content dominatrixes who rule Hollywood and Congress. In fact, he points to coverage of legislation that actually looks out for the interests of the the rest of us: the Digital Choice and Freedom Act would explicitly permit us to copy digital works for personal use, just as we can currently make a tape for a friend. (As Dan said at the OS X conference yesterday, he hopes the fact that a friend is taping The West Wing for him when Dan's traveling doesn't make his friend a pirate.)
If I were Apple, I would seize the opportunity to kick Microsoft in the nuts by coming out squarely on the side of the listener/viewer. Team up with Amazon to provide an alternate model for distributing music over the Net with terms that make sense in the networked age. Because if and when Microsoft becomes the only Authorized Operating System for playing content from Hollywood, we will all have been given a compelling reason to Mac users overnight.
Here's my crack at an Apple ad I'd like to see.
10/2/2002 11:20:20 AM | PermaLink
Why I Have a Mac in My Future
JD Lasica blogs the O'Reilly OS X conference where Digital Rights Management is the topic du jour. He quotes Tim O'Reilly, who is high up on my God Bless 'Im list:
Dan Gillmor is blogging the conference, as is GlennF (taking notes as people speak). As JD points out, Glenn ends his entry with the hopeful phrase:
Let's hope. And it's about time.
10/2/2002 11:13:29 AM | PermaLink
Boston, Oct. 2. In response to NBC's decision to extend Friends two minutes in order to hold viewers past the start of other networks' 8:30 shows, JOHO the Blog today announced that it is moving to a 23.6 hour publishing schedule.
Joho the Blog is an industry-leading weblog, bringing enhanced enterprise competitiveness to today's demanding global economy.
10/2/2002 08:23:37 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
Gary Turner advises me that I'm no longer the 6th hit on Google if you search for "david." I've been pushed down to #25 by the new #1 (David Bowie) as well as by David Lynch, David Gray, David Brin, David Grisman, Harry and David, and other famous and deserving David's.
Yet I am crushed. Our neighbor's seven year old is currently fanning me with a peacock feather and intermittently holds a restorative mint julep to my wan lips. In months, perhaps weeks, I shall have the courage to venture out again.
10/1/2002 09:27:29 AM | PermaLink
Matt Frondorf is driving from the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate, taking a picture every mile. In an interview, he calls it "statistical photography." The pictures are on display in a nicely designed Flash app over at the Kodak site. Oddly affecting.
10/1/2002 08:24:17 AM | PermaLink
Top Ten Torricelli Replacements
My Top Ten picks to replace Sen. Robert Torricelli in New Jersey:
10/1/2002 08:15:47 AM | PermaLink
Blog Reviews of Small Pieces