Inventing the Future

The Treachery of Names

Would any other smell as sweet?

We changed the name of the company today. The geeks formerly known as Qwaq are now Teleplace.

I like it. Qwaq was a kind of goofy Google/Twitter/Yahoo sort of thing into which you could project whatever you wanted. At first it was (theoretically) just as plausible that something would be made for kids as for companies. But the Qwaq named didn’t really play well. It was too empty a vessel — not suggestive of anything we did. Even our friends spelled it wrong. I often told people it was the corner letters of their keyboard, but they tended to just tilt their head at me like a confused dog. We have a great set of photos in the office of David, Andreas, and the gang discussing potential names with Alan Kay. “Oink? No. Too obvious.” Anyway, now we’re respectable, and the name suggests something about what we do.

Oh, and the new client is out, too.

And the new server.

Off to sleep.

Posted in Inventing the Future, Philosophical business mumbo-jumbo | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Speechless

A few years ago Wetmechanic Gary Gray and I interviewed my pal Cory Doctorow, the peripatetic author, hep cat, technogeek, futurephiliac, etc, etc, in the lobby of a hotel in Boston. We podcast the interview (in 3 parts) here on Wetmachine. (I’m too lazy to look for the links now, but you know how to use that search tool.) Anyway, Cory’s a good guy to interview because he has lots and lots of interesting things to say and he’s friendly & good natured. But conversations with Cory are half-duplex. (A term that any ancient geeks reading this post will remember. But for you young’uns I’ll explain: in full duplex communications, both ends of a link can send and receive messages. In half-duplex, one party sends and the other party receives. What I’m saying is that Cory is smart and nice and funny and interesting, but he doesn’t listen to a fucking word you say. (Or, in any event, he doesn’t listen to a fucking word *I* say.))

My favorite part of our conversation is where we’re talking about the costs and benefits of societal change, especially change brought about by technological advances. We’re talking about the possible end of the art form known as “the movie” as we know it today. What if digital duplication and peer-to-peer technologies make it economically infeasible for a studio to invest the sums necessary for a “real” movie like those we’ve become accustomed to for three quarters of a century or so (think: Lord of the Rings)? Cory makes the observation that with the Protestant Reformation came the end of the era of great cathedrals: because of the Reformation, no more grand cathedrals will ever be built. Cathedral-making is an art form that died because it had to die. But in exchange for that lost art, Cory says (I’m paraphrasing from memory), we got the Reformation. And then he asks “Was it worth it?”

If you listen closely, you can hear me responding, “that’s an interesting question.” (I know you’re not going to go find and listen to the podcast, but just pretend, OK?) Indeed, I thought it was a very interesting question. I was actually thinking about the costs, in blood and war and terror and murder and rape and rapine and starvation and hatred and blind tribal ignorance, that came with religious wars that accompanied the Reformation. And I was thinking about the mysterious awe-inspiring beauty of the (admittedly somewhat perverse) art form of the cathedral. And I was wondering, for the first time, what might have happened to the art form of the cathedral if the Reformation had never happened. I’m a technophobic & nostalgic guy, after all. I was thinking, “what if ever more and more beautiful cathedrals had been built?”

For Cory, of course, it was a rhetorical question, not a real question, and the answer was “yes”. Yes, losing the art form of the cathedral was an OK price to pay in exchange for the Reformation. Cory didn’t even hear, much less respond to, to my ambivalent response. He just steamrollered right over it. Of course the trade-off was worth it. Of course the new art forms that arise when old art forms are killed are “worth it”. The emergent art forms will offer new and unanticipated beauty and splendid insights into our human condition. So, he said (paraphrasing again), the old art must die so that that new and even more profound art can emerge.

As my 4 long-time readers might guess, I was skeptical about this. For I am given to worrying all the time about the wanton destruction of culture in the name of a bogus and ephemeral “progress”. I’m very skeptical about “progress.”

But then I saw the video embedded below, which I found on Spocko’s website — (and Spocko, in fact, actually discovered it on Cory’s own site Boing Boing). And now I’m starting to think, “Cory was right.” Not because this video is more beautiful and satisfying than (name your favorite movie (or cathedral)). But because this is a new art form. It’s shocking. It’s breathtaking. But it’s not shocking in the elitist “Épater la bourgeoisie” sense. It’s shocking because it’s so entrancing and fun, while at the same time implicitly raising a thousand deep questions (and I don’t even speak Korean). It’s just so unexpected, so friendly, so welcoming and so beautiful that I really can’t find words to respond to it. Sure, it’s just a little music video, and Lord knows a music video is not a new thing. But for now, tonight, this one feels to me like someting really really big. As big as the Iranian revolution on Twitter; or, more precisely, it’s an artistic exploration of the possibilities implicit in that revolution. And a big part of the reason for that is that it’s so human, so un-Godlike, so small.

UPDATE Below the fold, a minor elaboration.
UPDATE 2 On Ultrasaurus, Sarah Allen blogs about this post. I like what she has to say, and am impressed that she went back and actually listened to the interview.

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Posted in Memology, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , , | 5 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Alert Fire Chief and Captain, Silent Friends save Firefighter/Writer from Self-Immolation

There’s a fine line between “Hey, cute idea” and “Holy Fuck, was that ever a stupid idea”. Well I like to walk that razor’s edge. I guess that’s why some folks call me “Danger Man”. Well, actually, nobody calls me Danger Man, but if they did, that might indicate why.

See, I’m going to the O’Reilly Etech Conference next week to try to sell some of my books to the “alpha geeks” as (Tim O’Reilly calls his posse). And to any beta geeks who might be there, and so-on right through the omega geeks, and thence on to the roman alphabet geeks.

So I thought it would be nice to join the modern age and make a little video about me and my books. I was kind of inspired by this self-mocking movie by my friend Josh Crowley at Enter the Jabberwock. I figured, hey, Josh makes cool movies, all the big time writers have youtube movies to promote their books, *I* should make a movie! I thought that was a swell idea.

Not all ideas that I think are swell actually are good ideas, however.

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Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Writing | Also tagged , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Adelstein Publicly Calls for Open Access

Two important updates from my most recent post. First, Commissioner Adelstein publicly supported some kind of open access requirement for the 700 MHz auction licenses. Wooo Hoooo! For us policy geeks, it’s kind of like the moment when the Millenium Falcon comes out of nowhere and blasts the Imperial tie fighters targeting Luke as he barrels down toward the access port. Not that I had any doubt where Adelstein’s heart was, but it’s always reassuring to see him commit himself.

The second update is that DIRECTV and Echostar got out bid by some Brits for Intelsat. This makes it more likely that they will want to bid aggressively in the auction, assuming they think they can win.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)
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