Tag Archives: Technology

There is nothing more awesome than this. NOTHING.

Rarely does a video make me literally shout for joy. At 1:10 and 2:38, this one did.

That’s the Flyboard from Zapata Racing, and I WANT ONE.

Their official video, with more astounding jetpack/dolphin action (if anyone can translate the French, it’s much appreciated!):

More footage here.

(via Tor.com)

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Designing for the cities of the future

Kent Larson offers a fascinating glimpse into new technological and design possibilities aimed at making the cities of the future more accessible, more environment-friendly, more space-efficient, and more liveable:

Yes, please!

The transformable apartment, in particular, seems to be an idea that’s catching on. Hong Kong architect Gary Chang has already made it a reality.

(via TED)

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Why libraries matter, cont’d: “Permanent, unlimited, free”

Ursula K. Le Guin. in a must-read post, makes the case for why libraries matter in the digital age:

Libraries are essential because they keep permanent collections — even of unpopular books, even of impermanent, seemingly valueless items — a samizdat from 1940, a newspaper from 1933. Ebooks, including self-published ebooks, would become part of permanent library collections, which could then join the worldwide network of electronic libraries.

The existence or disappearance of a library’s permanent collection isn’t a sexy issue. But it’s absolutely basic to access to information and to the continuity of human knowledge. […]

The goal of the public library has been to give anyone who needs or wants it permanent, unlimited, free access to books. All books.

The goal of the public library in the electronic age is what it always was: to give permanent, unlimited, free access to books — print books, ebooks, all books — to everyone.

She outlines the threat libraries face from stingy corporate publishers:

For a long time most Americans agreed on the importance of the free public library to the well-being of the community and the country. A publisher then would hesitate to be seen deliberately making things hard for libraries. But reactionary ideology has weakened the idea of community; muddy thinking has convinced people that information on the Internet is free; and libraries are being conveniently misrepresented as mere outmoded warehouses for print books. Readers may assume that libraries don’t and won’t buy and circulate ebooks.

In fact, despite the expense of constantly changing technologies, the non-support of voters bleating anti-tax mantras, and the aggressive tactics of corporate publishers, the great public libraries have kept abreast with the electronic age, and they very much want to buy and circulate free ebooks.

Since corporations don’t consider human rights or needs, only corporate profits, they feel free to use tactics that infringe, ignore, or flout the rights of readers. They are in fact practicing commercial censorship. They are keeping books from us.

If the part libraries play in distributing ebooks gets “frictioned” into insignificance, it will be easier for the corporations to take further control of what ebooks you personally can obtain, how long a book will stay on your reader before you have to pay for it again, and whatever else they want to control. If they see profit in doing any of this, they’ll do it. If small publishers try to sell the books they don’t sell, the big corporations will eliminate the small publishers.

And cross-file this under “Books are made of win”:

If ebooks largely replace printed books, and the public libraries are decimated or eliminated as a permanent resource open to everybody, we may be able to access books only through the corporations. It will not be easy to get a book the corporations have decided is unprofitable, outdated, unnecessary, or unpleasing; it may be very difficult to find out whether a text has been cut or tampered with; there may be no way to know that a book ever existed.

Much more here, and as always, worth reading.

(Video via Ebooks for Libraries)

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Books are made of win, cont’d: “A momentary stay against confusion”

Clay Shirky says:

[A] book is a “momentary stay against confusion.” This is something quoted approvingly by Nick Carr, the great scholar of digital confusion. The reading experience is so much more valuable now than it was ten years ago because it’s rarer. I remember, as a child, being bored. I grew up in a particularly boring place and so I was bored pretty frequently. But when the Internet came along it was like, “That’s it for being bored! Thank God! You’re awake at four in the morning? So are thousands of other people!”

It was only later that I realized the value of being bored was actually pretty high. Being bored is a kind of diagnostic for the gap between what you might be interested in and your current environment. But now it is an act of significant discipline to say, “I’m going to stare out the window. I’m going to schedule some time to stare out the window.” The endless gratification offered up by our devices means that the experience of reading in particular now becomes something we have to choose to do.

The social piece of reading is a kind of penumbra. It’s something that forms around the text and after the fact. The feature of “highlight this passage and immediately see how many other people have highlighted it”? I mean, ZOMG, no. I want my own thoughts rendered as the most recent entry in the constant, long-running popularity contest that is the Internet – in real-time. Pick it up and do anything you like with it. Tell me later who else liked it. Show them to me, introduce them to me, whatever — not right now. Right now I’m reading.

Shirky writes more here — part of a fascinating series on the future of reading (for good or ill).

Nick Carr adds:

We don’t like being bored because boredom is the absence of engaging stimulus, but boredom is valuable because it requires us to fill that absence out of our own resources, which is process of discovery, of doors opening. The pain of boredom is a spur to action, but because it’s pain we’re happy to avoid it. Gadgetry means never having to feel that pain, or that spur. The web expands to fill all boredom. That’s dangerous for everyone, but particularly so for kids, who, without boredom’s spur, may never discover what in themselves or in their surroundings is most deeply engaging to them.

I’m sure neither author means to suggest that reading physical books is boring. But it does require a qualitatively different kind of attention than the restless browsing that typically happens on the Net, or the multitasking that our new devices make all too easy.

(h/t The Dish; image via CEN)
4/15 Update: I see The Dish has now put up a nearly identical post — ironic, considering a previous Dish link to Shirky’s piece (but emphasizing a different topic) inspired mine. Let the record show that I got to this one first. 🙂

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Books are made of win, cont’d: Chip Kidd gets skanky

…and gives a hilarious and enlightening talk on the creation of some of his iconic book covers:

My job was to ask this question: “What do the stories look like?” […] We bring stories to the public. The stories can be anything, and some of them are actually true. But they all have one thing in common: They all need to look like something. They all need a face. Why? To give you a first impression of what you are about to get into. […]

The book designer’s responsibility is threefold: to the reader, to the publisher and, most of all, to the author. I want you to look at the author’s book and say, “Wow! I need to read that.”

And just as I’m watching this and thinking “That’s another thing that’s lost in an e-book,” Kidd agrees: “Try experiencing that on a Kindle!”

Don’t get me started. Seriously. Much is to be gained by eBooks: ease, convenience, portability. But something is definitely lost: tradition, a sensual experience, the comfort of thingy-ness — a little bit of humanity.

Watch the video, though. It’s a lot funnier than the serious quotes I’ve pulled out.

More reasons why books are made of win here.

(via TED)

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Technology versus serendipity

Google announces Project Glass:

Like Sherry Turkle, Bob Mondello, and Pico Iyer, Linda Holmes is pushing back against our increasingly “all tech, all virtual, all the time” society:

Convenience is one thing, but I’m not looking for technology to reduce risk to the point where nothing can ever happen to me except the things I’ve already thought of.

Inefficiency exists for a reason. I don’t want to know before I leave exactly when to arrive somewhere so that I don’t have to stand in line, because when I stand in line, I might talk to people. I might take three minutes and think about nothing at all. I might actually look around. […]

There is a weird sense in which this technology treats everything unintended as if it is unwelcome: It is fundamentally opposed to the idea of figuring anything out for yourself. It advances the notion that we are entitled to a noncorporeal, completely nonpersonal presence we talk to like a person (“Where’s the music section?”) so we don’t have to expend the mental energy to suffer the indignity and inconvenience of potentially taking a wrong turn in a bookstore. We’re not talking here about turn-by-turn navigation that keeps you from heading for Boston and winding up in Charlotte. We’re talking about stamping out every trace of inefficiency in pursuit of a life where every right turn that would most directly have been a left becomes a problem to be solved. […]

I’m not sure I intend to have a life that’s quite as frictionless as Project Glass envisions. I don’t mind getting lost, and I don’t mind messing up, and I don’t mind walking into the business section instead of the music section, even if it does turn out to be a lot of how-to books by guys with big teeth. I’m not looking for the end of unpredictability.


Read the rest here.

Update: YouTuber rebelliouspixels — who’s probably right — thinks Google’s goggles will end up more like this.

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“Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved”

Psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle expresses perfectly some of the qualms I have about our plugged-in, always-online, invasively interconnected lives:

The transcript is worth quoting at length (boldface mine):

We expect more from technology and less from each other. And I ask myself, “Why have things come to this?”

And I believe it’s because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control. But we’re not so comfortable. We are not so much in control.

These days, those phones in our pockets are changing our minds and hearts because they offer us three gratifying fantasies. One, that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; two, that we will always be heard; and three, that we will never have to be alone. And that third idea, that we will never have to be alone, is central to changing our psyches. Because the moment that people are alone, even for a few seconds, they become anxious, they panic, they fidget, they reach for a device. Just think of people at a checkout line or at a red light. Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved. And so people try to solve it by connecting. But here, connection is more like a symptom than a cure. It expresses, but it doesn’t solve, an underlying problem. But more than a symptom, constant connection is changing the way people think of themselves. It’s shaping a new way of being.

The best way to describe it is, I share therefore I am. We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings even as we’re having them. So before it was: I have a feeling, I want to make a call. Now it’s: I want to have a feeling, I need to send a text. The problem with this new regime of “I share therefore I am” is that, if we don’t have connection, we don’t feel like ourselves. We almost don’t feel ourselves. So what do we do? We connect more and more. But in the process, we set ourselves up to be isolated.

How do you get from isolation to connection? You end up isolated if you don’t cultivate the capacity for solitude, the ability to be separate, to gather yourself. Solitude is where you find yourself so that you can reach out to other people and form real attachments. When we don’t have the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people in order to feel less anxious or in order to feel alive. When this happens, we’re not able to appreciate who they are. It’s as though we’re using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self. We slip into thinking that always being connected is going to make us feel less alone. But we’re at risk, because actually it’s the opposite that’s true. If we’re not able to be alone, we’re going to be more lonely. And if we don’t teach our children to be alone, they’re only going to know how to be lonely.

There’s much more, and the whole video is worth watching. And this seems like an apt place to point out that Kate Bush saw this coming:

A previous post on solitude and the need to unplug here. And I’ve also previously mentioned Bob Mondello’s provocative post on E.M. Forster’s prescient science fiction story “The Machine Stops,” which is worth reading here.

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