2015-10-04

 

Where did the future go?

Two things. First thing: I read an article on Motherboard, Built for Eternity, which (alongside nuclear power and the Hoover Dam) talks about the Clock of the Long Now, and how that might work. The second thing: I bought Wired UK for the first time in years.

The Clock of the Long Now and the work of the Long Now Foundation in general used to be one of my favourite things. They haven't changed what they are doing, so it has to be my perception that has changed. Did you know I cried when I first saw the model of the clock in the Science Museum in London?

I first read about it in Wired in the mid-90's. I've even written about reading about it . Maybe Wired hasn't changed either, but when I was a kid and I was reading it it felt like the future was going to be amazing: entrenched power structures and national identities were going to be cast aside - the techies and the Internet hippies were going to build a new, better culture.

Everyone was going to be the master of their own destiny and little Mom and Pop businesses were going to out maneuvere Goliaths of Industry who were so clueless about the web.

When eCommerce was young (and probably still spelled e-commerce) the go-to story when newspapers wrote about the Internet (how quaint) was of some tiny shop in a little town selling hundreds of widgets a week all around the world.

Now we have the future we have, and some things are better and some things are worse. A more mature person probably saw all of this coming (and was probably dismissed by the punk kids around them and investors trying to cash in before the bubble(s) burst).

The techies we have now are a kind of new ruling class, and there's a bunch of reasons that that is also bad, leading to a possibly less diverse power structure than before. Worse than that, they largely answer to investors and the markets - some of the oldest and entrenched structures there are.

The 'Goliaths' either adapted (largely by spending lots of money to crush their competitors and out market them, rather than providing a better service) or failed (removing whole classes of jobs and basically relocating them to cities, generally far away, often on the West Coast of the USA).

The Mom and Pop's now are probably making just over their Etsy and eBay fees and face efficient competition from China and other places with lower costs of living. They're struggling to be compliant with the byzantine laws of commerce, and mostly manage to operate in the new world by ignoring them. Probably not PCI compliant, or dealing with EU VAT properly, or being sensible with regard to the Data Protection Act. No one else is, so why should they? It's like an industry wide decision to ignore these things until they get caught.

Maciej at Pinboard called Wired a 'lifestyle magazine for middle-aged men' - flicking through the latest UK issue, it's hard to find fault with that. The pages run with investment and luxury.

Reading that Motherboard article, I guess what comes over me is a vague feeling of hubris. We have a lot of problems as a species, without building an enormous clock. I'm not just a literalist - I know that the goal of the LNF is to encourage that kind of long term generational thinking, but ... how is it doing that? Are projects for the Valley's rich the best way to do that?

I loved Cryptonomicon. Nerds use their wits and technology to outsmart the Nazi's and their dubious, dangerous investors, across two periods of time. It's spoiled for me, though. Randy didn't ask to win the rigged game of meritocracy but everything that he gets to do - from the position of almost certain social and economic safety - happens from unacknowledged privilege.

Like, I know that's every story forever, from James Bond and further back, but those stories weren't supposed to be about the brand new, plausible, future. We built this future. Was it the right thing?

(if you want to read the non-fiction piece that probably most influenced Cryptonomicon, check out Mother Earth Mother Board in Wired 4.12).

 

 

2015-09-24
The Right Thing by Brit Butler.

It's coming up on six years since Dad died. I cannot measure the amount I've grown since then. I know he'd be proud. But I'm proud and that's even more important. The biggest lesson I might have learned from John Glenn is this:

Loving other people is so obviously the right thing.

I've just passed six years since my dad died and I have almost exactly the same sentiment. It hurts and I still feel I was pretty young to lose him (I was a late-in-life child for my parents, the youngest and there's a big gap between me and my siblings) but I've grown and I have no way of knowing if I'd be the same person if I hadn't lost Dad.

Unlike real tradgedies, like losing your children, losing your parents feels natural, which I found helped. It's hard to explain without sounding maudlin or morbid, but a lot of my thoughts about the future (and my children) are informed by the realisation I'm going to die some day- something I've obviously always known but didn't quite believe until my dad passed.

I don't dwell on death, and I probably don't think in these exact terms, but my version of Brit's thought is more like "How will people I care about remember me when I'm gone?". And if you ask that question you get the same answer: loving other people is so obviously the right thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WATCH REPAIR

My battery died and I nearly had a heart-attack when I thought that I was late (super late!) for work:

I've never changed a watch battery before, but I have watch batteries (because they come in blister packs along with other batteries that I do use regularly).

I assembled the tools:

Then, for I think the first time in my life, I used my jeweller's screwdrivers like a jeweller would, and I popped the back off of my watch:

Looks good. I think that the white thing is either to stop it rattling around (the movement is smaller than I thought it would be) or to help with water/splash proofing. Well, it needs to come out.

Okay, I have a clear shot at the battery. I popped it out with some tweezers.

It's an AG4! I offered it up for comparison. I removed the fresh battery from the blister pack, put it in the battery slot and reversed the process. I have ticks again!

(There are no photos of the reverse process, but if you want to scroll back up the page and look at the pictures in reverse order, I won't think any less of you)



COLOURING FOR ADULTS. SHEET ONE.

Dawn breaks over a crowded metropolis. The city could be
anywhere that man lives in too small, too expensive boxes -
lured by the promise of a big break and an easy life -
trapped by crushing debt and commitments. A sense that you
can never go home.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE?


— c —

## OLDER vv vv vv OLDER ##

— c —


I've fallen into the trap of confusing creation with
publication - because I don't currently have a convenient
place I want to publish a finished thing, I've haven't been
writing at all - that's almost a waste of thoughts. The
number of times I've thought: "I'll write this on my tilde,
oh wait, it's kind of between blogs at the moment". Silly.

x things, where x is something I'll fill in when
I've listed things (or not):

1) I almost wrote body building! How cute. No. Just using
weights in an attempt to improve myself a little - to take
the place of some physiotherapy I haven't been doing and
supplement my standing desk routine.

2) Building a Z80 microcomputer. I've wanted to do this for
a very long time, and a recently random soujourn BACK into
that part of my bookmarks and the web in general has
convinced me that *now is the time* - I have amassed enough
knowledge to probably pull this off without having gotten
enough knowledge to realise why I'm doomed to failure. This
is the perfect point to go on an adventure.gqgq:w

3) Sure, I made a vim mistake up there, but I'm leaving it
in: YOLO.

4) Racket. Progress is slow, and I don't need Racket to make
things, because I know how to make things in so many other
ways, but it's enjoyable to find a beautiful language that
makes me realise how little I actually know after two
decades of programming. I just think I know things.

             12the bong in this reggae song

             11keyboard tantrum party

             10artisanal faraday cage

              9personal bland

              8thin like gauze

              7pithy goes here

              6venomous kitchen

              5morose delectation

              4empty room full of people

              3abandon the lazy rivers

              2drunk in the aisle

              1new fang