The older I get, the more I get what Reinhold Niebuhr was trying to tell us with his little prayer for serenity.
”God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Putting humans in the front and humans at the end. And using technology as an augmentation is key to the web becoming a useful tool not a fetishistic device.
Stumbled across this inspirational keynote by Douglas Adams he gave at a Microsoft Conference back in 1996. This guy is so amazing at thinking about the future, talking about biology and applying this knowledge to technology.
"The computer is a modelling machine not a calculator or a typewriter."
Douglas on building APIs…
"Don't build dead pages. Build living models."
The key to winning the race is not to compete against machines but to compete with machines.
From the book Race against the machine by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
On the social impact of coffeehouses…
“Remember — until the mid-seventeenth century, most people in England were either slightly — or very — drunk all of the time. Drink London’s fetid river water at your own peril; most people wisely favoured watered-down ale or beer. The arrival of coffee, then, triggered a dawn of sobriety that laid the foundations for truly spectacular economic growth in the decades that followed as people thought clearly for the first time. The stock exchange, insurance industry, and auctioneering: all burst into life in 17th-century coffeehouses.”
Let's take a look inside a coffeehouse…
“As the image shows, customers sat around long communal tables strewn with every type of media imaginable listening in to each other’s conversations, interjecting whenever they pleased, and reflecting upon the newspapers. Talking to strangers, an alien concept in most coffee shops today, was actively encouraged.”
Change, openness and free exchange of information cause fear amongst the ruling class…
“Charles II, a longtime critic, tried to torpedo them by royal proclamation in 1675. Traditionally, informed political debate had been the preserve of the social elite. But in the coffeehouse it was anyone’s business — that is, anyone who could afford the measly one-penny entrance fee.”
Stumbled across a talk by Benjamin Bratton that shares an interesting perspective on TED. To me it's also a stimulating comment on the increasing bubble of design-thinking, placebo-innovation and increasing shallowness of social-media. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo5cKRmJaf0
"Perhaps the pinnacle of placebo politics and innovation was featured at TEDx San Diego in 2011. You're familiar I assume with Kony2012, the social media campaign to stop war crimes in central Africa? So what happened here? Evangelical surfer bro goes to help kids in Africa. He makes a campy video explaining genocide to the cast of Glee. The world finds his public epiphany to be shallow to the point of self-delusion. The complex geopolitics of central Africa are left undisturbed. Kony's still there. The end.
You see, when inspiration becomes manipulation, inspiration becomes obfuscation. If you are not cynical you should be sceptical. You should be as sceptical of placebo politics as you are placebo medicine."
I found this particular part of his speech to be very much to the point:
"The potential for these technologies are both wonderful and horrifying at the same time, and to make them serve good futures, design as "innovation" just isn't a strong enough idea by itself. We need to talk more about design as "immunisation," actively preventing certain potential "innovations" that we do not want from happening."
I really would like to see the field of design (rapid-prototyping, visual storytelling, ...) to be used as a tool to evaluate technological possibilities. Rather than being used as an instrument to manipulate and to beautify technology without questioning its range of application. Sources:
It's much more possible that other countries around the world who are truly indignant about the breaches of their privacy security will band together and create alternatives, either in terms of infrastructure, or legal regimes that will prevent the United States from exercising hedgemony over the Internet or make the cost of doing so far too high. I think, even more promising is the fact that large private corporations, Internet companies and others will start finally paying a price for their collaboration with this spying regime.
What the outcome of this conflict is, what the Internet ultimately becomes really is not answerable in any definitive way now. It depends so much on what it is that we, as human beings, do. One of the most pressing questions is whether people like the ones who are in this room, and the people who have the skills that you have, now and in the future, will succumb to those temptations, and go to work for the very entities that are attempting to destroy privacy around the world, or whether you will put your talents, skills and resources, to defending human beings from those invasions, and continuing to create effective technologies to protect our privacy. I am very optimistic, because that power does lie in your hands.
Glenn Greenwald – Excerpt from the keynote of 30th Chaos Communication Congress