Inventing the Future

On Writing

I’ve been bumming about my postings (or lack) lately. I want to write about cool possibilities and what they might mean, but most of what I do can’t be talked about until it is released. It seems like it shouldn’t matter whether you write about what you’re doing versus what you’ve done, but I think it does. I feel like everything I write about the latest cool thing my colleagues or I did ends up sounding like an ad. Not an effective and entertaining thing, but just that it sounds like I’m trying to sell something.

Sorry about that. As far as I am aware, I write to sort out ideas. I was taught that if I can’t name something or talk about it effectively, then I don’t understand it. And I write to to document my journey. In both cases, I should be discussing work in progress. But even the entries I made while working at the University of Wisconsin all seem to be about actual working results, rather than projects that I was still designing. And I’m not sure why, but it feels like the out-of-sync aspect is getting worse. There is a commercial relevance. For example, way more than a year ago I had been very happy when a new reader told me what a delight it was to find my blog, and he offered some interesting comments. But it turns out that this fellow was from a ginormous company that is now a (hopefully) happy repeat customer. While I don’t clear anything I write with anyone at work, I can’t pretend that I am unaware of any potential commercial impact. Not sure what to about all that.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Oh, those witty JP Morgan Guys, Pissing on Little Timmy Geithner

JP Morgan Exec mocks Treasury Sec for bailout money.

To which I cannot help but respond:

I am glad Mr. Dimon is so pleasant with us;
His words and his sneer, I thank him for:
When we are next met in Congress assembled,
We will, by God’s grace, pass such a bill as
Shall send his wits into the hazard.
And we understand him well,
How he comes now with memory of wilder days,
When he did reign as Prince untouchable
And those set to guard against his excesses
Catered to his whims and kept him safe against all
Accountability that had once been law.
What wonder when, having supped so freely and so long
at public feast, that he should task us so
for daring to restrain his monstrous appetites?

So tell the pleasant prince this mock of his
Hath turn’d his balls to gun-stones; and his soul
Shall stand sore charged for the wasteful vengeance
That shall fly with them. For I swear
His jest will savour but of shallow wit,
When his colleagues weep more than ever they did laugh at it.

(With apologies to Henry V)

I do hope the folks at Treasury who fought so hard to restrain the “radical” demands that public money have some conditions attached take note of how grateful their financial sector “clients” are for their services.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Vote for the Future

I’m proud that the Wetmachine site I’ve been part of is a finalist for
best Technology blog
of 2008. Well, sort of a finalist…

The 2008 Weblog Awards

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Posted in history: external milestones and context, Inventing the Future | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Yo Google! Your Lawyers Are So Stupid, They Copy AT&T!

I had an unfortunate head desk moment this morning on reading that Google Ads (such as the ones to the right on your screen) reserves the right to pull their service if you engage in “any action or practice that reflects poorly on Google or otherwise disparages or devalues Google’s reputation or goodwill.” This looks suspiciously like the terms of service my fellow travelers on net neutrality slagged AT&T for using.

In both cases, I expect that the intent is not to yank people who say nasty things about the parent company, but to reserve the right to yank the service when someone does something revolting. “Look, NAMBLA uses Google Ads, Google supports pederasts.” or “Look, the worlds worst spammers have AT&T connections, they support spam.” By why can’t my lawyer colleagues just say so, instead of writing something so broad that it covers even general criticism? Yes, “tarnish” is one of those words of art that all us legal folks understand has a very specific meaning. But it doesn’t do a damn bit of good when folks who are trying to understand the terms of service are not lawyers, which — outside of DC — covers most of the user population.

I have no doubt that the usual suspects will be out baying for blood and denunciations like the staff of the Clinton and Obama campaigns after a rival campaign staffer sneezes funny. So even though I did not give a rat’s patootie on the AT&T terms of service (being a lawyer and understanding what it meant), I shall now both condemn Google for being so stupid and test their policy by making several derogatory comments about GoogleAds.

[Begin OUTRAGEOUS accent]
Hey, GoogleAds! I fart in your general direction! I wave my very naughty bits at you! You are so lame, you copy terms of service from AT&T!

Now change your TOS to something sensible or I shall taunt you some more.
[end OUTRAGEOUS accent]

Did the ads on the screen disappear? No. Good. Can we consider this settled and actually get back to real policy?

Keep this up and I shall need to make a major speech about “Terms of Service In America” and invite us all together for some major healing.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Censorship Public and Private, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

EcoEquity, Greenhouse Develpment Rights, Bali Conference, Our Planet

Tom Athanasiou and his good colleagues at EcoEquity attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“The Bali Conference”) & got a chance to share the ideas behind their framework for Development Rights in a Carbon-Constrained World. ( I earlier promised that I was going to give an in depth analysis of their argument, but I’ve changed my mind. They summarize it and present it better than I can, so what’s the point?)

Tom has a few follow-up articles about the Bali Conference and what comes next. In Grist, Environmental News and Commentary, Tom has a kind of Bali Conference trip report. In Foreign Policy in Focus, Tom has a short but important essay, “Towards a Defensible Climate Realism”.

These articles somewhat wonkish in nature, but hey, difficult problems require a little bit of thought, and what policy problem is more difficult or important than climate change? Besides, if you’re reading Wetmachine you probably have a fair amount of wonk in you, or at least geek, which is close enough. For some real insight into what really needs to be done about climate change at the policy level, rather than at the switch-to-energy-efficient-lightbulbs-and-hope-for-the-best level, you need to get acquainted with EcoEquity.

Check ’em out. Better still, subscribe to the EcoEquity newsletter, then you’ll be as in-the-know as I am!

Posted in General, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

The Innovation Engine

We seem to be wired to be able to solve difficult problems, but only in a community where we have support. To create that support, we have throughout history sung songs of heroes around the campfire. We are inspired by movies. Militaries breed close-knit groups and create splendid uniforms and other rituals. We go to church. With a support group, we overcome depression. We set our sports records before a stadium full of humans cheering us on.

Alone on Antarctic ice, we die.

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Posted in Inventing the Future, metaphysics | Also tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Media Ownership Endgame: Martin's Opening Gambit on Newspaper-TV Cross Ownership

As I’ve said before, Kevin Martin plays a mean game of hardball — but an honest one. And while I’m happy to have him on the right side in limiting cable market power, it makes fighting on the media ownership side an utter bitch and a half. Like Belichik prepping the Patriots, Martin has carefully studied the mistakes of Michael Powell, studied the strategies of the media reform movement, carefully considered his own strengths and weaknesses, and set up his game plan with a determination to win.

This tends to make some of my friends and colleagues in the movement hate Martin personally, or get bogged down in the distractions and the moves Martin throws. But that’s as stupid as letting yourself get distracted by trash talk. To win this fight, we need to keep our eye on the game, stay nimble, have our own special teams prepped, and remember we’re in this to win in the long haul.

With this in mind, we turn to the opening moves in Broadcast Media Ownership Endgame. Martin already has one key advantage in that because he is the Chairman, he can set the agenda. He controls the timing and can float trial balloons, decide when to hold new hearings or release new studies, and finally declare when he wants a vote. Martin demonstrated his skill in this over the last month, gradually building to the end game, alternating period when nothing seemed to be happening with sudden frenzied activity. Each such move requires us to mobilize resources and exhaust ourselves, and forces us to make process demands for more time and reasonable opportunities for comment. Martin can then chose to acede to our requests in a limited way, letting a deadline slip a few weeks or postponing something by a month. This makes it look like Martin is being reasonable and accommodating, and casts us in the role of partisan foot draggers. Worse, it makes it increasingly difficult to mobilize our troops, because how many times do we have to fight and win these minor skirmishes over procedural issues and timing? People get tired of the issue, or think we already won when what we achieved was merely a temporary respite. Then, like a matador administering the coup de grace on the exhausted bull, Martin plunges his point directly into the heart. (‘Scuse me a minute, I need to check to see if my ears and tail are still attached.)

But Martin has now clearly committed to the final moves of the end game with a PR blitz/charm offensive similar in many ways to his approach in the 700 MHZ proceeding. And, as with the C Block “open access” condition, I do not expect Martin to make signifcant changes to his proposal now that he has put himself out in front and committed to a public position. Martin the Matador has dropped the cloak and gone for the sword. The question is whether the media reform bull is as exhausted or confused as Martin thinks, or if we still have sufficient wits and stamina to give him a surprise.

More below . . .

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Inventing the Future

new technology

This funny video features a scribe who is used to dealing with scrolls. He contacts the help desk to deal with the new “book” technology.

My colleagues at the office see it as a send-up of users. I’m thinking it’s making fun of programmers…

Posted in Inventing the Future, metaphysics | Also tagged | Comments closed

Inventing the Future

Hat's-off to Ken (and treats on the tube)

I’ve written before about my belief that we’re inexorably entering — and some of us resisting — a paradigm shift in how humans think of information, imagination, creativity, freedom, and non-real property. So I was unexpectedly delighted to receive this letter to all of the university’s Division of Information Technology staff, from our new (heh heh) interim CIO, Ken Frazier. (Below the fold.)

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Posted in General, Inventing the Future | Also tagged , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

MIT AI researchers develop healthy technoparanoia

Or, so says The Onion, in any event.

“The more we thought about it, the less we were able to laugh off the threat of killer machines,” said Dr. Henry K. Arronovski, a leading expert in the field of heuristics classification. “It really started to freak us out. What if, decades from now, humans end up in a virtual-reality construct designed to blind them to their enslavement to the hivemind—all because of the work my colleagues and I started?”

Added Arronovski: “I want no hand in creating a world where only Keanu Reeves can protect my great-grandchildren from a giant drill that plummets through the ceilings of subterranean cave dwellings.”

As a true technoparanoaic, I guess I wish there were more truth to the story. . .

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