Kevin Poulsen, writing for Wired’s Threat Level blog:
Two weeks ago U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the government to “promptly” begin releasing Swartz’ records. The government told my lawyer that it would release the first batch tomorrow. But minutes ago, Kollar-Kotelly suspended that order at MIT’s urging, to give the university time to make an argument against the release of some of the material. […]
I have never, in fifteen years of reporting, seen a non-governmental party argue for the right to interfere in a Freedom of Information Act release of government documents. My lawyer, David Sobel, has been litigating FOIA for decades, and he’s never encountered it either. It’s saddening to see an academic institution set this precedent.
This is not how MIT should deal with their shame over this.
My hypothesis is that our biggest ability to create impact is going to come from finding the “next big thing” business models, the ones that solve problems that haven’t been solved yet – whether in energy distribution, sanitation, water, education, healthcare, etc. And it feels to me that it’s unlikely that, in most cases, betting on new, untested business models – meaning creating new markets with huge amounts of friction (bad roads, poor ports, unreliable distribution, corruption) serving customers who are, by and large, new consumers of whatever you’re selling (so high acquisition costs, etc.) – is going to fully financially compensate investors and entrepreneurs for the risks they’re taking.
[To be totally clear, I’m differentiating between “good” and “astronomical” returns here, and arguing that if we’re clear-eyed about the risks you have to take to solve problems that have never been solved before, then “good” financial returns aren’t good enough, if your yardstick is a simple financial risk/return analysis.]
“I thought of the last six months in Mississippi and my last week hitching rides with the burned out, beat up, fed up, but always kind and generous sector of society I’d never gotten to know until now. It was strange, I thought, how it was always the poor who picked us up. Our drivers weren’t the type who had happy families and middle-class upbringings like Sami and I had. The shiny SUVs or giant, bus-sized RVs would ride on past, but the worse the rattletrap, the more likely it was to pull over for us. Maybe it wasn’t strange at all. They lived lives with two feet planted in reality. Perhaps they didn’t hesitate to pick us up because they knew what it was like to be cold and hungry and away from home. They dwelled beneath poverty lines and were undereducated, but they were— in the ways that mattered most— far more civilized than the finely bred and carefully raised, for there is no demographic that has a sharper instinct for empathy than the downtrodden.”
[An interesting read of the one person’s realization that college debt does not guarantee success or happiness. I’ve found the above to be sadly true. Mostly what money buys people is isolation and insulation. That too can be good or bad.]
It’s 2013. Where’s my flying car that folds into a briefcase?
A lot of folks feel this way, and some critical things have changed and frankly grown inexpensive enough that folks are making what they want on their own. Of course, that’s not the only factor. Another is the power of social effects as so many folks have a mobile device within three feet 24 hours a day (I don’t, but hey, whatever works for you). In the example below Nathan took an inexpensive microwave and added the sorts of features I’d think any microwave in 2013 would have. Even just setting the clock from the Internet on startup would be a huge improvement, never mind a simpler interface, and some kind of app that would make more complex cooking simpler. (I’m going to add right now that I think microwave cooking is a bad idea. Ping me if you care to hear more about that.)
For the less technical, the Raspberry Pi Nathan used is computer on a board. It cost $25. So it’s not like the larger manufacturers couldn’t include it for very little additional cost. And if the scanner were common the “microwave” food database would crowd source to useful levels in no time at all, and the food conglomerates would be happy to start including their stuff only requiring adjustments by the people.
Crowd funding sites like Kickstarter are filled with examples of watches, belts, tokens that help find other items, and all sorts of “I’m tired of waiting for the BigCo’s to make this” projects. This has been common in the software world. Something didn’t do what you want? Write the answer! Now this is becoming common with hardware.
I find this so exciting because I felt that the place where software is at its best is where it “disappears” into hardware. That the “thing” has great support in the back from a world of connectivity and processing power is great, but at its best… not evident. There’s a lot of products to improve, and since the BigCo’s are far better at copying than they are at innovating, folks like Nathan will either show them the way, or in many cases, become the competition.
Diogene is not an emergency accommodation, but a voluntary place of retreat. It is supposed to function in various climate conditions, independent of the existing infrastructure, i.e. as a self-sufficient system. The required water is collected by the house itself, cleaned and reused. The house supplies its own power and the necessary platform is minimized. We live in an age in which the demand for sustainability forces us to minimize our ecological footprint. This postulate is paired with the desire to concentrate and reduce the direct living environment to the truly essential things. Diogene might remind one of Henry D. Thoreau, who wrote the following in his book “Walden/Life in the Woods” in 1854: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.” It is no coincidence that Piano also regards his project as “quite romantic” and emphasizes the aspect of “spiritual silence” which it conveys: “Diogene provides you with what you really need and no more.”
As architectural references, Renzo Piano lists the “Cabanon”, which Le Corbusier constructed at the beginning of the 1950s in Cap-Martin in the Côte d’Azur, the prefabricated house structures of Charlotte Perriand, and the Nakagin Capsule Tower, which Kisho Kurokawa erected in Tokyo in 1972. The late 1960s and early 1970s in London were very formative years for Piano: In the interview, he mentions one particularly important influence during this era as being Cedric Price with his “Fun Palace” and the hippie movement.
RSS represents the antithesis of this new world: it’s completely open, decentralized, and owned by nobody, just like the web itself. It allows anyone, large or small, to build something new and disrupt anyone else they’d like because nobody has to fly six salespeople out first to work out a partnership with anyone else’s salespeople.
That world formed the web’s foundations — without that world to build on, Google, Facebook, and Twitter couldn’t exist. But they’ve now grown so large that everything from that web-native world is now a threat to them, and they want to shut it down. “Sunset” it. “Clean it up.” “Retire” it. Get it out of the way so they can get even bigger and build even bigger proprietary barriers to anyone trying to claim their territory.
Well, fuck them, and fuck that.
We need to keep pushing forward without them, and do what we’ve always done before: route around the obstructions and maintain what’s great about the web. Keep building and supporting new tools, technologies, and platforms to empower independence, interoperability, and web property ownership.