Saturday, May 25, 2013

Quote of the Week

“In 1974, computers were oppressive devices in far-off air-conditioned places. Now you can be oppressed by computers in your own living room.”
—Ted Nelson, Computer Lib, 1987 edition

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Apple to the Core

So, in a surprising turn of events, the highly polished Apple is now in the Star Chamber over diverting its profits overseas in a clever shell game. Actually, it ain't that surprising. Truth be told, Apple's Woodstock Nation vibe is part of the polishing. To quote Bob DePree:

I always thought Steve Jobs was amazing in his success of positioning Apple as the counter-culture, anti-establishment outfit, when, in fact, it was always the most capitalist, most proprietary, and most dictatorial of all computer companies. If you read the biographies of Jobs, he was personally dealing with a lot of cognitive dissonance on that score; he wanted to believe he was a counterculture acid head, when he was really an ambitious, driven capitalist.

Yep. Seems like a detour down the Hegel Highway: a classic example of thesis/antithesis/synthesis at work. Thesis: the counterculture was all about faded blue jeans and rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters. You can't be a low-rent hippie and a connoisseur at the same time; good enough has to be good enough. Antithesis: making snob appeal cool. Yes, wafting through the air of Seattle, comes the sensual appeal of the finest "artisinal" coffees, clothes, wine, yattayatta. Apple is simply the digital example of thata cutely named, design-centric, ridiculously expensive, artisinal number cruncherthe job of Jobs. So, if Windows = a populist Holiday Inn, Apple = an elitist Ritz-Carlton disguised as a hippie commune. The synthesis of hippie and connoisseur isof coursethe hipster. (Who all have iPads and iPhones, natch.) Thus the shiny, slick beast grooves into Bethlehem to be born.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: "Who Owns the Future?"

Jaron Lanier makes savvy points in Who Owns the Future? Ordinary slobs have been suckered into giving their information away to monopolies in California; Creative people have been suckered into giving their stuff away to publicize their talents; This lifestyle only works if you're living with your parents; Something's got to change.
The problem? We think of information as “free,” but that only works in an economy that isn't largely information-based. Soon, the info economy will swallow all else. It’ll be world of self-driving cars, 3-D printers, robot nurses, etc. Granted “free-info,” most folks will be out of work. Lanier writes: “If we go on as we are, we will probably enter into a period of hyper-unemployment, and the attendant political and social chaos. The outcome of chaos is unpredictable, and we shouldn’t rely on it to design our future.” Lanier's nightmare future resembles Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano—universal automation that makes most people useless. (He complicates matters by saying that this “automation” is a shuck. Computers and computer networks aren’t really doing the thinking: they’re mining data and crowd-sourcing—without paying the human brains that did the original thinking.) But this situation is unsustainable.
“We’re setting up a situation where better technology in the long term just means more unemployment or an eventual socialist backlash. Instead, we should seek a future where more people will do well, without losing liberty, even as technology gets much, much better.” Lanier, no socialist, has a capitalist solution: “Pay people for information gleaned from them if that information turns out to be valuable.” How? Stay tuned.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Star Trek: The Next to the Last but Previous to the First Alternate Timeline Generation

Ah, just kidding. The title is: Star Trek: Into Darkness. Seriously. I was prepared to hate this movie. But, then, I have a love-hate relationship with J.J. Abrams. He has a keen dramatic sense, yeah, yeah. But he's been known to cheat. Lost, for example. It's not purgatory, it's not, seriously fans, it's not purgatory, would I lie to you, OK, it's purgatory. Shuck and jive. I was expecting that. Spoilers engage!

Star Trek: Into Darkness is a ripping yarn. The glamor shots of The Enterprise are fanboy drool-inducing. The character studies (with the !@# exception of Spock crying) were solid. This includes (put yourself in cryosleep, fanboy!) John Harrison. AKA, Khannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

Yeah, him. Beneditch Cumberbatch (the new Sherlock Holmes) plays him, which, I guess, is logical. Rebooting the Big Bad from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan struck me as lazy storytelling when I caught wind of it. But it works. Kirk's reaction to Admiral Pike's death also works. Loved this movie. Ripping. But ...

Abrams cheated, damn it. If The Enterprise lost its artificial gravity on approach to earth, the inhabitants would go into freefall. Spock wouldn't cry, !!@#$. Good movie, J.J. Could've been better.

Mindless entertainment: A-   Originality: D-   Science: F