dev, low key rss evangelist, ghost without knowing, komencanto, technically a cyborg, generic currency symbol ¤ fangirl, she/her
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Welcome to hell, Elon

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Nilay Patel points out the obvious and inevitable conflict between Elon's dreams and Twitter's reality #
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bitofabother
92 days ago
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Basically.
Portland, OR
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kerrybenton
86 days ago
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I'm not sure I agree with all of this, but this statement certainly rings true, with a whole variety of implications: "The essential truth of every social network is that the product is content moderation, and everyone hates the people who decide how content moderation works."
Washington, DC

Battery Life

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It's okay, I'm at 10%, so I'm good for another month or two.
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bitofabother
123 days ago
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Okay but... where do I get one?
Portland, OR
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CallMeWilliam
123 days ago
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It's ok, I'm at 10% so I'm good for another month or two.
kazriko
124 days ago
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Even I haven't gone that far. Mine only has about a 5-6 day battery life, about the same as my smartwatch.
Colorado Plateau

Have I reached the Douglas Adams Inflection point (or is modern tech just a bit rubbish)?

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The all-knowing sage Douglas Adams had this to say about technology:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

I grew up with a BBC micro. My earliest memories are of playing games and fiddling with BASIC.

I wasted my teens online. I could bind Trumpet Winsock with the best of them.

I did a degree in computer science.

I spent my twenties and thirties working on GPRS, UMTS, LTE, and all the other acronyms associated with mobile phones.

I dedicated the last half-decade to dispensing technology advice to the state.

I fricking live technology. My house is full of gadgets, I've written code that's run all over the world, and I'm currently studying for an MSc in technology.

But modern technology is rubbish!

I've been studying Blockchain and - while the maths behind it is nifty - it's clearly a solution in search of a problem. It's so far away from being consumer-ready - and has no obvious path to mass adoption. And that's before we get to all the scams surrounding it.

Augmented Reality still hasn't actually dropped into the hands of consumers. Even eight years ago when I reviewed Google Glass, it wasn't clear what it would be used for. Nothing in the subsequent decade has shown any practical use. I had a play with hololens and - while interesting - the effect was pretty unconvincing. Augmented Reality games have been on phones for close to twenty years. There's been the odd breakout hit like Pokemon Go - but it has hardly changed the world.

VR is actually here - although I remember the first wave in the 1990s. But it still hasn't got around the fact that you have to wear a cumbersome headset and try to focus a couple of cm from your eyes. And the videos coming out of Zuck's "Metaverse" look like N64 games - without the fun.

Self-Driving Cars seem to be as hyped as the Internet fridge. They can't even work out how to turn their lights on at night! I'm pretty well served by public transport - and there's no shortage of taxis. So I can't quite work out what a self-driving car is for. The world-sensing tech is cool - but it clearly isn't anywhere close to being good enough for real-world use.

Voice Assistants. I'd say Alexa understands me about 75% of the time. That's nowhere close to good enough. And it's impossible to use unless you remember the exact syntax for every interaction. Yes, I love being able to turn on my lights by reciting a spell - but for anything more complicated they're just a flop.

5G. This was the moment I got out of the mobile industry. All the promises made about 5G were ludicrous. It's faster Internet. It isn't going to love you or save your dog. It just makes things a bit faster with slightly lower latency. Just like 4G did. You're still going to have coverage issues because your provider doesn't care about your unprofitable area.

Counterpoints

It isn't all doom and gloom though!

MRNA vaccines are amazing. I've got them in my bloodstream right now. I can't wait for someone to use them to inoculate against HIV or to cure my lactose intolerance.

Fake meat is interesting. I'm particularly fascinated by Synthetarianism. Sure, it's possible to live on a traditional vegan diet - but I can't wait to see what innovative new foods we can eat.

Contactless / NFC. I was an absolute NFC sceptic - and still am when it comes to "tap to interact" stuff. But for payments it has been incredible. Wave my phone near a vending machine and a can of cola pops out. Even if I'm in a different country, it works. It's devilishly complicated behind the scenes - but so much effort has gone in to making it effortless for customers to use.

IoT is putting tiny sensors everywhere. Home monitoring is nice - but industrial monitoring is changing the world.

It has never been cheaper to manufacture bespoke circuit boards. You can custom build screens small enough to fit in a Lego block.

Open Source has comprehensively won. Anyone can examine the code that runs their life. And, anyone can pick up world-class code and use it to power their new inventions.

Cutting Through The Hype

Perhaps what I'm bored of is hype. I lived through the next-big-thing being 3D TV. I was sold on the idea that every home would own an Additive Printer. EInk is lovely, but hasn't broken out of the small-form-factor. No one is using social TV. Hydrogen powers precisely zero domestic vehicles.

I guess I have a low tolerance for over-hyped gimmicks which are forever doomed to change the world next year.

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bitofabother
142 days ago
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This is an eternal mood, basically.
Portland, OR
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Artemis Quote

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Another option: "It is an honor to be the first human to set foot on the moon."
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bitofabother
151 days ago
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Truly incredible. Some of the most gifted words of our time.
Portland, OR
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Million, Billion, Trillion

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You can tell most people don’t really assign an absolute meaning to these numbers because in some places and time periods, “billion” has meant 1,000x what it's meant in others, and a lot of us never even noticed.
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bitofabother
1496 days ago
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Portland, OR
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alt_text_at_your_service
1500 days ago
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You can tell most people don’t really assign an absolute meaning to these numbers because in some places and time periods, “billion” has meant 1,000x what it's meant in others, and a lot of us never even noticed.

Faint Signal

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P2270158 (2)

It’s been a little over a decade since I first saw Clay Shirky lay out his argument about what he called the “cognitive surplus”, but it’s been on my mind recently as I start to see more and more people curtail or sever their investments in always-on social media, and turn their attentions to… something.

Something Else.

I was recently reminded of some reading I did in college, way back in the last century, by a British historian arguing that the critical technology, for the early phase of the industrial revolution, was gin.

The transformation from rural to urban life was so sudden, and so wrenching, that the only thing society could do to manage was to drink itself into a stupor for a generation. The stories from that era are amazing– there were gin pushcarts working their way through the streets of London.

And it wasn’t until society woke up from that collective bender that we actually started to get the institutional structures that we associate with the industrial revolution today. Things like public libraries and museums, increasingly broad education for children, elected leaders–a lot of things we like–didn’t happen until having all of those people together stopped seeming like a crisis and started seeming like an asset.

It wasn’t until people started thinking of this as a vast civic surplus, one they could design for rather than just dissipate, that we started to get what we think of now as an industrial society.

– Clay Shirky, “Gin, Television and the Cognitive Surplus“, 2008.

P2060122

I couldn’t figure out what it was at first – people I’d thought were far enough ahead of the curve to bend its arc popping up less often or getting harder to find; I’m not going to say who, of course, because who it is for me won’t be who it is for you. But you feel it too, don’t you? That quiet, empty space that’s left as people start dropping away from hyperconnected. The sense of getting gently reacquainted with loneliness and boredom as you step away from the full-court vanity press and stop synchronizing your panic attacks with the rest of the network. The moment of clarity, maybe, as you wake up from that engagement bender and remember the better parts of your relationship with absence and distance.

How, on a good day, the loneliness set your foot on the path, how the boredom could push you to push yourself.

I was reading the excellent book MARS BY 1980 in bed last night and this term just popped into my head as I was circling sleep. I had to do that thing where you repeat it in your head twenty times so that I’d remember it in the morning. I have no idea what refuture or refuturing really means, except that “refuturing” connects it in my mind with “rewilding.” The sense of creating new immediate futures and repopulating the futures space with something entirely divorced from the previous consensus futures.

Refuture. Refuturing. I don’t know. I wanted to write it down before it went away.

Which I guess is what we do with ideas about the future anyway.

Warren Ellis, August 21, 2018.

Maybe it’s just me. I can’t quite see the shape of it yet, but I can hear it in the distance, like a radio tuned to a distant station; signal in the static, a song I can’t quite hear but I can tell you can dance to. We still have a shot, despite everything; whatever’s next is coming.

I think it’s going to be interesting.

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bitofabother
1527 days ago
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Portland, OR
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