The Book of Dust

I simply could not put this book down. I tried. But then I’d read just a few lines of the next chapter… and the next… and it’s the middle of the night. This was gripping adventure story. Overlaid with a sense of impending doom (see above). Deeply religious people frighten me. That’s okay, Barb says, because most religious people are not that serious about it. Hmm.

The philosophical underpinning of this book is deeply concerned with how authoritarian regimes take power. […] The Magisterium’s most chilling weapon in its quest for domination is its League of St. Alexander. The League is a secret society for children whose members wear badges and attend extra church services, and they’re encouraged to inform on any adults they catch doing anything sinful or heretical. At Malcolm’s school, the headmaster tries to forbid his pupils from wearing the badges on school property. The students, drunk with power, promptly inform on him; he’s taken into the Magisterium’s custody and never heard from again. Continued…

Can’t wait for part two.

What Mongolian Nomads Teach Us About the Digital Future

“I think we’ll cruise through the future with empty pockets. I won’t need to carry my phone because I should be able to lift up any screen anywhere and have it immediately became my tool, my screen. It recognizes me from my face, voice, heartbeat, and transforms itself into my phone interface. When I am done, I leave that screen where it was. To read a book I pick up any screen. To travel, I pick any car. To use a power tool, I summon it online and it’s in my hand within 30 minutes. And when I travel, why should I drag clothes around? In a nomadix future, the hotel or Airbnb will provide my favorite clothes when I arrive and recycle them when I depart. The environment, if it is rich and well-cared for and understood, shall provide.”

“They get a signal from the air, energy from the sun, and a motorcycle from China. And they can still pack up and move everything in a hour.”

Kevin Kelly writing in Wired

Question for abortion opponents

Would you save one child from a burning building or a vial of 1,000 embryos?

“They will never answer honestly, because we all instinctively understand the right answer is “A.” A human child is worth more than a thousand embryos. Or ten thousand. Or a million. Because they are not the same, not morally, not ethically, not biologically. This question absolutely evicerates their arguments, and their refusal to answer confirms that they know it to be true. No one, anywhere, actually believes an embryo is equivalent to a child. That person does not exist. They are lying to you.”

Sci-fi writer baffles abortion foes »

Dashboards

As automobiles got smarter and smarter, dashboards got more complex. My MINI dash can show stuff I still haven’t discovered, six years in. Better to have that kind of data than not (I guess), but I rarely look at most of it. Really old cars didn’t tell you much. So you had to be looking under the hood (And everywhere else, I suppose) with some regularity. But I found this simplicity refreshing. Hard to see in this photos because the museum was pretty stingy with the lighting.

Originally, the word dashboard applied to a barrier of wood or leather fixed at the front of a horse-drawn carriage or sleigh to protect the driver from mud or other debris “dashed up” (thrown up) by the horses’ hooves. (Wikipedia)

1947 Hudson Pickup

1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II

1932 DeSoto CSC Roadster

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WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us

Author Tim O’Reilly says the central theme of this book is understanding how algorithmic systems shape our society. If that’s what you’re after, I recommend two books by Kevin Kelly: The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future and What Technology Wants. Then I’d read Homo Deus and Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I’m sorry, but Mr. O’Reilly’s ideas just didn’t flow. The book felt… patchy. And he seemed overly proud of his personal contribution to the Internet, to Web 2.0, and a bunch of other “innovations.” I don’t question his contributions but isn’t it better if other folks acknowledge them? Anyhoo, here are some passages I underlined:

Our experience is shaped by the words we use.

Abstractions – the process by which reality is transformed into a series of statements about reality.

“For all practical purposes, there is now only one computer.” — Clay Shirky

The first principle of Web 2.0 was that the Internet was replacing Windows as the dominant platform on which the next generation of applications was being built.

Another key to what distinguished the web applications that survived the dot-com bust from those that died was that the survivors all, in one way or another, worked to harness the collective intelligence of their users.

“Global consciousness is that thing that decided that decaffeinated coffee pots should be orange.” — Computer scientist Danny Hill

Once an event occurs, all possibilities collapse into the one reality that we call the present, and then, in an instant, the past. But even the past, seemingly fixed as it appears, is an illusion constantly updated by new knowledge from the present.

A key lesson for every entrepreneur – Ask yourself: What is unthinkable?

“Apps can do now what managers used to do.” — Finnish management consultant Esko Kilpi

More than 63 million Americans (roughly half of all households) are now enrolled in Amazon Prime. Amazon has more than 200 million active credit card accounts; 55% of online shoppers now begin their search at Amazon, and 46% of all nine shopping happens on the platform.

A company is now a hybrid organism, made up of people and machines.

There are more than 2 million apps for the iPhone and they have been downloaded 130 billion times. App developers have earned nearly $50 billion in revenue.

With the rise of GPS, we are heading for a future where speeding motorists are no longer pulled over by police officers who happen to spot them, but instead automatically ticketed whenever they exceed the speed limit. We can also imagine a future in which that speed limit is automatically adjusted based on the amount of traffic, weather conditions, and other variable conditions that make a higher or lower speed more appropriate than the static limit that is posted today.
One of the simplest algorithmic interventions Facebook and Twitter could make would be to ask people, “Are you sure you want to share that link? You don’t appear to have read the story.

Subscription-based publication have an incentive to serve their readers; advertising-based publications have an incentive to server their advertisers.

We are increasingly creating an economy that is producing too much of what only some people can afford to buy.

“The job” is an artificial construct, in which work is managed and parceled out by corporations and other institutions, to which individuals must apply to participate in doing the work.

“There may need to be two kinds of money: machine money, and human money. Machine money is what you use to to buy things that are produced by machines. These things are always getting cheaper. Human money is what you use to buy things that only humans can produce.” — Paul Buchheit (creator of Gmail)

The rich still live in a world where doctors make house calls and personal tutoring is the norm.

“If you want to understand the future, just look at what rich people do today.” — Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist

In a connected world where knowledge is available on demand, we need to rethink what people need to know and how they come to know it.

More than 100 million hours of how-to video were watched on YouTube in North America during the first four months of 2015.

Who will buy the products of companies that no longer pay workers to create them?

It’s the sudden stop


We live a couple miles outside of Jefferson City (MO) on a “no exit” road. This morning someone drove into a utility pole, cutting off access to/from homes. Whole bunch of folks couldn’t get to work… or back to their homes. The people in the house across the road from the accident have a drive that circles around behind their house and back out to the road. They volunteered (or the responders asked) to let folks use their property to get around and out. Good neighbors.