2016

23 December — Quote from Aeon

Ant societies, organized by distributed algorithms rather than division of labour, have thrived for more than 130 million years.

9 December — Quote from Arthur Koestler

“Humor is the only domain of creative activity where a stimulus on a high level of complexity produces a massive and sharply defined response on the level of physiological reflexes.”

November 30 — Heavy rotation in no particular order before going all in on Christmas:

20 October — McLuhan has me scratching my head this morning. My daily routine usually involves waking up, showering and walking a couple blocks for a coffee. On the way out the door I usually grab a book from whatever pile has accumulated—this morning I reached for The Global Village and started reading chapter 9, a dialogue between him and his co-author Bruce Powers. In my wake of confusion and googling I stumbled on this episode of To The Best of our Knowledge which carried me into work this morning. The problem with McLuhan is he says things that get your wheels turning but doesn’t really explain anything so your left attempting to fill in the blanks.

21 April — Benjamin Bratton talking about Platforms:

Similarly, it is the legal and practical standard size of the humble paper envelope that makes it possible for it to shuttle messages both discrete and discreet; like the urban grid, the envelope’s power is in its dumbness. In the 1970s as the world’s cities began to more fully merge into the networked hierarchies of today with the widespread standardization of very-large-scale envelopes, made of steel instead of paper, in the form of fixed proportion and attribute shipping containers. Containerization migrated the packet switching from telecommunications onto the transit of physical objects (or perhaps the other way around). It traded the standardized, linear traffic program of the grounded asphalt grid for another, now smoothed into liquid shipping lanes, pacing big packets of objects back and forth across avenues of oceans. (The Stack, p. 46)

19 April — Quote from Boris Groys:

The goal of future wars is already established: control over the network and the flows of information running through its architecture. It seems to me that the quest for global totalitarian power is not behind us but is a true promise of the future. If the network architecture culminates in one global building then there must be one power that controls it. The central political question of our time is the nature of this future power.

19 April — It’s pretty clear mobile applications are the new World Wide Web in terms of usage and growth. Some of the best qualities of the prior web are beginning to find their way into the two most popular runtimes and I’m beginning to wonder if they’re attempting to emulate the prior web’s best qualities to achieve more growth and utility for customers. The prior web benefited from a few key things worth reviewing:

  1. A ubiquitous viewport for accessing destinations.
  2. A way to target and arrive at any destination from any other destination.
  3. A seamless way to progress to new destinations and back regardless of their origin.
  4. A universal addressing mechanism.
  5. A common, easy to develop for runtime with progressive loading.
  6. Search.

Both runtimes appear to be making an effort to live up to these qualities as best they can given business constraints. Android’s system back button has echoed the browser back button stitching together past hops in and through apps. iOS now has a recently added (albeit clumsy) way of navigating back. Both Android and iOS now have mechanisms for deep linking into installed apps which mimic the experience of moving from one context to another while maintaining congruity. This also hints at a sorely lacking universal addressing mechanism. iOS has introduced “On-Demand Resources” and “App Thinning” as an attempt to reduce the overhead involved in installing and launching applications — nowhere near the convenience of loading a web page, yet. Both runtimes make an effort to allow developers participation in system-level search through an opt-in implementation of provided APIs. This unfortunately pales in comparison to the opt-out approach of indexing and searching on the web. Recently a rumor cropped up about Google investigating Swift as an optional programming language for Android. This would only slightly improve the abysmal situation of a common language we enjoyed on the prior web. We used to moan about browser incompatibilities and now the effort involved in learning a completely different language and set of APIs is so daunting we don’t even bother.

I suspect things will continue to improve, even the when they involve both runtimes coming together and hashing out differences. Right now we live in a bifurcated web of applications. Information is trapped in compiled applications across two runtimes, not because it’s what developers intended but because the systems designed to execute them wasn’t thought of as an open system.

22 March — From Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine:

The vertical culture of the Boston tech sector existed in stark contrast to the horizontal interactions of Silicon Valley. Because the California firms were small and fledgling, they often had to collaborate on projects and share engineers. This led to the formation of cross-cutting relationships, so that it wasn’t uncommon for a scientist at Cisco to be friends with someone at Oracle, or for a co-founder of Intel to offer management advice to a young executive at Apple. Furthermore, these networks often led to high employee turnover, as people jumped from project to project. In the 1980s, the average tenure at a Silicon Valley company was less than two years. (It also helped that non-compete clauses were almost never enforced in California, thus freeing engineers and executives to quickly reenter the job market and work for competitors.) This meant that the industrial system of the San Jose area wasn’t organized around individual firms. Instead, the region was defined by its professional networks, by groups of engineers trading knowledge with each other.

These casual exchanges—the errant conversations that take place in coffee houses and bars—are an essential engine of innovation. While Jane Jacobs might have frowned upon the sprawl of these California suburbs, the engineers have managed to create their own version of Greenwich Village. They don’t bump into one another on the crowded sidewalk or gossip on the stoop of a brownstone. Instead, they meet over beers at the Wagon Wheel, or trade secrets at the Roadhouse. It’s not the ballet of Hudson Street, but it’s still a dance, and it’s the dance that matters.

14 February — This month’s issue of New Philopher has an article by Oliver Burckeman titled A Frictionless Existance:

The implicit promise of efficiency enhancing technologies is that they’ll speed our progress toward a future time when the chores are all handled, and we can really start to live. But that time never comes. Instead, one day, you could find yourself living the perfect tech-smoothed life: alone at home, eating takeout food you obtained without speaking to anyone else, watching streaming movies to avoid the ‘pain’ of meeting friends at the cinema… and wondering when exactly it was, in your frictionless existence, that the point of being alive slide entirely out of view.

Burckeman makes it sound like it’s all or nothing—give in to efficiencies and you’ll lead a lonely depressing life. Far from the truth. I haven’t touched a light switch at home in months and it hasn’t made me more depressed about my existence. It’s true, technology will allot us more time, it’s up to us to use it wisely.

21 January — API link dump:

Facebook Twitter Github Instagram Keybase