Don’t Become a Robot

Kevin Kelly comments on a book by Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget. This is a lesson of which we should all take heed.

The central argument of Jaron Lanier’s intelligent and argumentative book, You Are Not a Gadget, is that technology wants us to become more like technology itself — and this is a bad thing. Jaron believes that as technology advances humans tend to make themselves more machine-like and less human. For instance, he claims that we tend to alter our behavior in a non-desirable way in order to use poorly designed computers, today’s internet, and many hi-tech gadgets. We start to think like a machine in order to use a machine. More worrisome, we may become dumber in order to use dumb machines. Maybe we speak slower, or use simpler language. Or maybe we restrict our emotions and freedoms so that a computer can read us. Perhaps we accept that we should produce things for free because the internet “wants” things to be free. Jaron sees this as a long slippery slope as we make ourselves into gadget-beings. But he warns, “you are not a gadget.”

via The Technium: You Are a Robot.


Within an Ace of Achieving Retirement Weight Goal

This is a highly personal post and can safely be ignored by most of my readers.

Knowing since the start of the year I was coming up to retirement at the end of August I set myself an ambitious weight loss target. Returning from holiday in Tasmania in February I joined Weight Watchers Online attracted by their new Propoints system. The daily calculation and recording of Propoints consumed provided the incentive to change my food intake substantially. Apart from completely giving up alcohol except for infrequent special occasions and very strict portion control my diet changed little. This made it easier to conform.

Sunday 28 August was the target date. This was the day before my retirement day and by coincidence my 65th birthday. An unexpected reverse in my weight decline occurred the week before and I only made it down to 89.3 kg just 300 g short! Pretty close.

2011-08-29 SNAG-00

The upturn blips are interesting. The first coincides with my last conference attendance in Sydney and the others visits and dinners with friends, all part of life’s tapestry. The major downturn blip followed significant periodontal surgery.

Overall I am thoroughly pleased and look forward to a fitter retirement.

Inspirational Talk on Ed Tech by Joan Getman

We had the privilege at Bond of a talk on her approach to education technology management by Joan Getman of USC. These were the take-aways for me:

2011-08-23 Thinking_and_acting_strategically_Joan_Getman_Direc

As part of the Emerging Technology Committee I was able to join in a further hour of discussion following her talk and toss around many of her ideas at greater length. The two and a half hours away from marking not only was a pleasant break but a most stimulating one with many new ideas to pursue.

My Latest Librarything Covers

These are the books read in the 7 months since my last report:

28-08-2010 SNAG-00

Down Web Memory Lane, Our First Browser and Server

It did not take much persuading by a tweet from Stephen Collins (@trib) to follow his suggestion to read Mark Pesce’s post with the provocative title Dense and Thick. Mark takes us downwards through his definitions of the golden, silver and bronze ages of the web, a descent which is controversial at best.

It was the very start of the golden age that sparked my own memories. Even for a renowned futurist like Mark I think my own web golden age just predates his. As 1993 dawned my colleagues and I were running Gopher on the Mac platform and were able to do simplistic searches of text-based information. (We were also heavy users of HyperCard, a simple, scriptable hypertext system based on the index card metaphor that allowed sophisticated apps to be built quickly. To this day I don’t understand why Apple discontinued such an outstanding product.)

I was leading a DSTC (Distributed Systems Technology Centre) research project at Bond. Alas the DSTC is no more but lives on as a Google group. We had DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) machines based on MIPS, a 4000 and 5000, running Ultrix (DEC’s version of BSD Unix), and we were able to run early pre-1.0 releases of the Mosaic browser from about March 1993 – the graphical Mosaic browser revolutionised the web. Version 1.0 came along in April 1993.

A couple of months later we took delivery of two DEC Alpha machines, a workstation and a server. The DEC Alpha was the world’s first 64-bit production processor and it ran DEC OSF/1 Unix. With the Alpha server’s massive memory of 256MB we were able to run the NCSA web server and I revelled in writing my first web pages by October 1993, now over 16 years ago.

They were definitely happy days and worthy of Mark’s golden age tag. I, too, well remember the master list of sites maintained by CERN but can’t claim to have visited every one. The Yahoo directory that soon came along was invaluable as the number of web sites exploded as was DEC’s Alta Vista search engine that came in 1995. How quickly appears nostalgia as we wander down memory lane.

[I am grateful to Tak Woo, CEO of OntheNet, for filling in some of the technical details of our hardware. Tak was the senior Research Scientist on our DSTC research project at Bond during the golden age.]

Jason Fried – Why You Can’t Work At Work – Placeholder

7-03-2010 SNAG-01 

Workplace = interruptions

Management = interruptions

Campfire is our office

Video link

Open Science Gains Public Attention

I have long been a supporter of open science projects like Galaxy Zoo (from my old alma mater) where the public can make valuable (some would say invaluable) contributions to data gathering and processing for science experiments. To be fully open it is necessary to make the gathered data openly accessible by anyone and to invite input into ideas for extended and new experimental projects.

We know there is entrenched opposition from existing scientists and institutions used to closed science models, and the large corporations who claim to ‘pay’ for experimental output even though it is based on publically-funded science. It seems to me that for open science to move forward we need to educate young scientists who will yield future influence and most importantly the public themselves. I see grass roots pressure as the main force to bring about open science to not only have access to the output of all publically funded science but also the experimental procedures as they are in process.

dinos_only_200wide[1]Therefore I was buoyed by the ABC Radio National podcast on open science in the FutureTense series which talked to some of the leading open science protagonists such as Dan Gezelter, Julian Cribb and ex-pat Aussie Michael Nielsen.  I was particularly taken with Andy Farke and his Open Dinosaur Project which is taking the ideas behind Galaxy Zoo to higher levels. Of course social media tools are playing an increasingly significant role in enabling open science, particularly blogs, wikis, and social networks with which the public are already familiar. The snowball is rolling at last.