You and I are both free-riders on so much of the Internet these days. We don’t have to pay for enormous amounts of good content, but … how long will our free ride last? Longer than until sundown on Saturday but not (probably) as long as we’d like.
Somebody else is pushing the buttons and paying for our free ride, because every time we check into a website somebody is hoping that I will, or you will, reveal a bit more information that can be sold to an advertiser somewhere that is planning to use it to market to us.
The problem is that there is a finite amount of interesting information that can be data-mined from my web-surfing, your web-surfing, and our web-surfing. Right now, corporations are paying our fare into lots of good web-places. Two years from now, is there anything they want to know about us that they don’t yet know?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that many big secrets.
Another reminder of why we read Dave Winer’s blog Scripting News: this spirit-lifting quote from a recent post Indirect business models FTW.
One of the really amazing things about New York City is the extent to which the city anticipated its own growth. It built elevated rail systems to neighborhoods that didn’t exist. A grid that went into the Bronx when the city barely made it to 14th St. A huge city park in the middle of nowhere. Tech guys have to think like that. So few do. Seriously.
We all lined up to get out pictures taken for this year’s SciFoo rogue’s gallery.
So many interesting amazing people in one place with so many great talks planned. People are here this year from the Galaxy Zoo (Chris Lintott and Arfon Smith) and I am especially eager to hear their session which will be called I think “Citizen Everything.”
My Flickr account (linked to from the photo) will probably be the best place to keep track of what cool things I happen to see here.
One small but defining aspect of geek-style pride is overcoming small obstacles with instant fixes. Here we see the misfit of a Mac plug (too loose) into a Swedish wall socket — the plug was then propped into place with several MacWorld magaizines and a light-travel-reading textbook plus two local apples.
Yes, an entire calculus limerick, resurrected from my 1992 joke book, has been made into a YouTube video by my old friend Stu Savory. (Calling him my “good old” friend would make him sound older and less good, so I’ll leave it there.)
The limerick is a fine old mathematical chestnut, most likely created by a real practitioner who invoked Gausswhen trying to tie his cravat and thought of Klein bottles when he heard the milkman’s cart rumble by. With blessings upon Stu’s head, I am not that old.
I hope all my readers will show their support for YouTube’s new adult content by favoriting Stu’s video early and often.
Let’s be more ambitious than Freud: What do Humans want? I am putting together a college-level course on the ways that Utopia is being multiply re-imagined in digital worlds.
Second Life is well-known as a place that sets people free to imagine new faces, bodies, histories, and futures. But Wikipedia is also a second life to many of its participants. If Second Life has multiple sexual genders, including a wide range of Furry and Gorean and scientific data visualization options, Wikipedia too has “genders”; people who come there to work out different desires.
Wikipedian fulfillment may involve some very strange couplings (wrong word, since far more than two people often become involved), quite often accompanied by virtual cat-on-roof yowling. Consider, for example, the passionate encounter of article-writer with article-editor. Or of somebody who just loves enforcing the RULES with a prankster who loves to break those rules.
Agenda-pushers for any agenda X would get no satisfaction were there not advocates for agenda not-X also eager to engage in back-and-forth pushing.
Yes, I am (mostly) joking. But the part of my course on “Gratified desire” will consider material well beyond Second Life.
Lisa started with major computer-geeky creds and then built up and out, to test and evangelize (6 years at least worth of) new good stuff such as RSS and Bloggercon and podcasting. She has a good eye for what will be exciting, and she puts lots of skill and energy into making good things happen.
Lisa also writes about life in the geeky-young-mom lane, e.g. annotating her desk and giving advice to panelists e.g. “Bring one story to tell” but also “The best panelists are the sharpest listeners.”
More recently, she turned her tech skills to creating H20town, a hometown online newspaper. Being Lisa, she then branched out to find others like herself and built Placeblogger, mixing high-tech with low-tech can-do in equal proportions. Now she and Susan Mernit are teaming up, so who knows what the future holds for all of us?
In conclusion, I’m wishing a Happy Ada Lovelace Day to all of you high-tech high-flyers of every gender, but especially to Lisa Williams.
…of Leonardo’s helicopter — John Graham-Cummings’s The Geek Atlas sounds like a fascinating travel guide. To quote its description at O’Reilly Books:
With this unique traveler’s guide, you’ll learn about 128 destinations around the world where discoveries in science, mathematics, or technology occurred or is happening now. Travel to Munich to see the world’s largest science museum, watch Foucault’s pendulum swinging in Paris, ponder a descendant of Newton’s apple tree at Trinity College, Cambridge, and more. Each site in The Geek Atlas focuses on discoveries or inventions, and includes information about the people and the science behind them.
The old “Gray Lady” New York Times keeps changing her spots in ways that deliver new value–but without creating new profits to replace what got lost in the transition to Web 2.0. Just for example (reverse chronological order; this is a blog, after all) …
NY Times partners with Userland to deliver news stories via RSS feeds.
The NY Times is no longer (just) my mom’s messy mass of newsprint (see below, ca 1984.) It did a great job at that, but it is now setting out to do great things in a much, much bigger World 2.0. I just hope Web 2.0 finds ways to support them in turn.
…The quantum world is a New New World far more alien and difficult of access than Columbus’ Old New World. It is also, in a real sense, much bigger… Our fundamental equations do not live in the three-dimensional space of classical physics, but in an (effectively) infinite-dimensional space: Hilbert space. It will take us much more than a century to homestead that New New World, even at today’s much-accelerated pace…
In the next five years, policy-makers around the world will embrace economic theories (e.g. those of Richard Layard) aimed at creating happiness. The Tower of Economic Babble is rubble. Long live the new, improved happiness economics! …
Here are other short samples from just a few more of the best:
I will see the development of robots that people will want to spend time with. Not just a little time, time in which the robots serve as amusements, but enough time and with enough interactivity that the robots will be experienced as companions, each closer to a someone than a something. I think of this as the robotic moment…
…If there is such a thing as a world mind today, then its thoughts are primarily about commerce. It is the “invisible hand” of Adam Smith, deciding the prices, allocating the capital…I call this the hindbrain because it is performing unconscious functions necessary to the organism’s own survival, functions that are so primitive that they predate development of the brain. Included in this hindbrain are the functions of preference and attention that create celebrity, popularity and fashion, all fundamental to the operation of human society. This hindbrain is ancient….
…Program the assemblers to put together an SUV, a sailboat, or a spacecraft, and they’d do it—automatically, and without human aid or intervention. Further, they’d do it using cheap, readily-available feedstock molecules as raw materials. The idea sounds fatuous in the extreme…until you remember that objects as big and complex as whales, dinosaurs, and sumo wrestlers got built in a moderately analogous fashion…
…the thing that we think of as “us”,can become separated from our body, or nearly separated anyway. I don’t suggest we will be able to transplant our mind to another body, but we will be able to introduce new body parts into existing bodies with a resident mind. With enough such replacements, we will become potentially immortal: like ancient buildings that exist only because over the centuries each of their many stones has been replaced…
…There seems to be a Malthusian principle at work: information grows exponentially, but useful information grows only linearly. Noise will drown out signal. The moment that we, as a species, finally have the memory to store our every thought, etch our every experience into a digital medium, it will be hard to avoid slipping into a Borgesian nightmare where we are engulfed by our own mental refuse…
…Having been forced to choose a single game changer, I have turned away from the fascinating scientific developments I might like to see, and will instead focus on the one game changer that I will hopefully never directly witness, but nevertheless expect will occur during my lifetime: the use of nuclear weapons against a civilian population…
I join Lawrence in hoping that his prediction won’t come true.