Designer, author, speaker, publisher, podcaster and longtime friend Jeffrey Zeldman joins the show to reminisce on the origin of the Web Standards Project and it’s legacy 20 years on.
Tagged with “technology” (454)
S01E07: The Decentralized Web
Darius talks a lot about the decentralized web and in particular ActivityPub, a newish web specification that is trying its best to make it possible for social network sites to talk to each other in a standardized way. You might be familiar with Mastodon as a kind of Twitter replacement, and we talk about that but also PeerTube and a few other things. Emma has many questions about this uncharted territory of the web, and Darius answers them by saying "well, in theory" a lot. Like a lot a lot. Things mentioned: the Friend Camp code of conduct and that time Facebook bought Instagram and then disabled Instagram’s Twitter compatibility.
Britt and Ellie explore what the internet of the future could (or should) look like.
All around the world, governments are increasingly looking at control of the internet; whether it’s to regulate content, hide or ban content or increase ownership of your data.
Is this the opposite of what the internet was originally designed to be - a free, open and uncensored space?
In this seventh episode, Britt Wray and Ellie Cosgrave meet the people who want to bring that dream back using their alternative internet networks. Together, they imagine what the internet could or should look like in the future.
Cory Doctorow joins Britt and Ellie to navigate this huge subject as we meet former Wikileaks journalist James Ball, blockchain experts Stephen Tual and Juan Benet, Jilian York from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, security researcher Leonie Tanczer, Chaos Computer Club spokesman Linus Neumann, TOR developer Isis Agora Lovecruft and Mr C, co-founder of Hack Lab.
In the early 2000s, Stewart Butterfield tried to build a weird, massively multiplayer online game, but the venture failed.
Instead, he and his co-founders used the technology they had developed to create the photo-sharing site Flickr.
After Flickr was acquired by Yahoo in 2005, Butterfield went back to the online game idea, only to fail again.
But the office messaging platform Slack rose from the ashes of that second failure — a company which, today, is valued at over $5 billion.
On this week’s show, we’re exploring infinity and beyond with artist and writer James Bridle and mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.
Through his visual art and writings on technology and culture, James Bridle has been at the forefront of our understanding of tech for the last decade – and from his perspective, the view of our future is both exciting and gloomy. He sat down with the Guardian’s technology reporter Alex Hern to talk about his book, New Dark Age.
Limits are grist to the mill for Marcus du Sautoy, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University. His mission is to explore – and if possible, explain – the unknown, so following hot on the heels of his bestselling book What We Cannot Know, is How to Count to Infinity. Meeting with Richard Lea at the Hay festival, Du Sautoy explained how a German mathematician first proved the existence of infinity in 1874, and what the concept means for our understanding of the universe.
Peter heads to a Microsoft research centre to look at the latest in assistive technology.
The lives of blind and visually-impaired people are being transformed by technology. But where are the changes heading? Peter White is joined by YouTuber Lucy Edwards as they head to a Microsoft research centre, to get her take on life as a digital native. As a blind person, what does she want from the technology that’s around the corner?
Microsoft’s "Senior Technology Evangelist" Hector Minto explains his job title - and takes Peter and Lucy through some of the tools of their "Seeing AI" app. He addresses their questions about the current state of technology which is for, and increasingly designed by, the blind and visually impaired.
We also hear from Saqib Shaikh, who was a driving force behind Microsoft’s approach to technology for the blind and VI and from Dave Williams, who trains people to use assistive technology.
James Bridle: The nightmare videos of children’s YouTube — and what’s wrong with the internet today | TED Talk
Writer and artist James Bridle uncovers a dark, strange corner of the internet, where unknown people or groups on YouTube hack the brains of young children in return for advertising revenue. From "surprise egg" reveals and the "Finger Family Song" to algorithmically created mashups of familiar cartoon characters in violent situations, these videos exploit and terrify young minds — and they tell us something about where our increasingly data-driven world is headed. "We need to stop thinking about technology as a solution to all of our problems, but think of it as a guide to what those problems actually are, so we can start thinking about them properly and start to address them," Bridle says.
Claude Shannon was a mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer known as “the father of information theory.” In the pantheon of cool people who made the modern information era possible, he’s right up there. Today, we’re going to talk about Shannon’s life with Jimmy Sony and Rob Goodman, authors of a great biography of the man called A Mind At Play, How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. Especially you software engineers out there, if you don’t know who Claude Shannon was, get educated. You owe your livelihood to this man.
On the current “tech lash”: Doctorow welcomes the tech lash we’re seeing, because “on the one hand, we’re very worried that a small coterie of unaccountable technologists can write code that changes the lives of billions of people for the worse. But it seems like the mainstream of the critique of that won’t, or can’t, contemplate the possibility that a small group of people might write code that would change people’s lives for the better. That may be the way, or part of the way, that we hold tech to account—by having our own tech, by seizing the means of information.”
We do need to build a better web: He continues, arguing that there are “companies with a fair degree of impunity to just make ads more invasive, more surveillant, more crappy, and more dangerous. Gathering all that data and warehousing it means that you put it at risk of being breached or subpoenaed or in some other way commandeered and then used against the people who you are advertising to.”
Go forth and learn from Larry Lessig: Harvard Law school professor and founder of the Creative Commons, Lessig is key here, as Doctorow references: “Larry says that the world is influenced by four forces: 1) code, what’s technologically possible, 2) law, what’s legally available, 3) norms, what’s socially acceptable, and 4) markets, what’s profitable.”
How we build a better web: Cory makes a two-prong argument on how we build a better web, which starts with a way to “sort the sheep from the goats or the willing from the unwilling…1) we should always design computers that obey their users or owners when there’s a conflict between what that person wants and what some remote entity like, say, a government or a police force or an advertiser or whatever wants. 2) Part two is that it should always be legal to disclose defects in computers. So, if you discover that there’s a problem with a computer that other people rely on, you should be able to warn them even if the manufacturer would prefer that you not.”
On privacy, data breaches, and a new business as usual: Doctorow opines that we’re not at a watershed moment because: “When the next crisis comes, it reaches an even higher peak. More people care about it and they care about it more intensely. When the crisis passes and the new normal asserts itself, it’s a new normal in which the crisis is more salient yet. That’s how we attain change.”
The good and bad of technology in the long history of the internet: Doctorow says this is nothing new: "That consciousness has been there since the very beginning, really. No one founds a group like the Electronic Frontier Foundation because they think technology is going to automatically be great. The reason the Free Software Foundation and EFF and other projects try to think about the social implications and how technology could be made safer for human habitation is because of this dual sense that on the one hand, technology held an enormous power to change the balance in social justice struggles and to make people’s lives much better.
"At the same time, it held an enormous power to make people’s lives much worse and change the balance of power so that it favored the already powerful. Technology has done both. If there’s a real criticism of the techlash it’s that it decides that only one of those things is real. They’re both real. Technology has given us community and it’s given us kindness and it’s given us all kinds of joys and human flourishing. It’s taken those away, too."
Aleks Krotoski explores the unforeseen consequences of a frictionless digital life.
It’s the life we’re told we want, where we just shout at a device and our needs are met as quickly as the supply chain allows. Aleks Krotoski explores frictionless digital living.
But is there value in friction? Aleks hears from someone who’s life depends on it, mountaineer Andy Kirkpatrick. He has a reputation for stacking the odds against himself as much as possible; long routes, often climbed alone in the worst of conditions. Back on the ground Andy also needs friction to not get complacent, accept others views without question, to keep moving forward.
Without friction we risk falling prey to what economist Umair Haque describes as the infantilisation economy. One where we are diminished by being able to have our every need met by Amazon’s Alexa. And the cost isn’t just to us but also to the army of digital serfs peddling about in all weathers with those trademark boxes on their backs. Its a future that was foreseen as far back as the late 19th century by the likes of Nietzsche in his descriptions of the ‘last men’ a humanity living the most vanilla of existences without challenge or ambition to change.
Nothing sums this up better than the food replacement industry. No time to shop, cook, chew? Get everything you need nutritionally in a drink like Soylent or Huel - all in the name of efficiency. Its a world that fascinates anthropologist Jan English-Luek who for over 20 years has been observing trends in silicon valley.
Ultimately Aleks will ask what we’re saving all this time and effort for and do we ever reap the benefits? Or does it just keep us where the digital world wants us, consuming in ever more efficient ways.
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