John is joined by Merlin Mann to discuss managing family tech use and the upcoming iOS 12 Screen Time family features.
Tagged with “tech” (7)
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.
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."
Eben’s keynote is one of the most provocative, intelligent, outrageous and outraged pieces of technology criticism I’ve heard. It’s a 45 minute lecture with a 45 minute Q&A. I ripped the audio and listened to it while walking around town today and kept having to stop and take out my headphones and think for a while.
Last week was Jeffrey Zeldman’s website’s 20th birthday, so this week he joins me and Jeremy Keith on Unfinished Business 110 to talk about the anniversary. We start by discussing Jeremy’s 100 words for 100 days writing project and how it’s inspired me to change the way that I think about writing on our blog and posting to our portfolio. We talk about the importance of writing for yourself as well as for others and why writing on your own website is important. With it being the twentieth anniversary of Jeffrey’s own site, we also talk about whether it’s important to archive older designs for posterity.
There are three iron laws of information age creativity, freedom and business, woven deep into the fabric of the Internet’s design, the functioning of markets, and the global system of regulation and trade agreements.
You can’t attain any kind of sustained commercial, creative success without understanding these laws — but more importantly, the future of freedom itself depends on getting them right.
Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, journalist, blogger and co-editor of Boing Boing.
He has written a ton of great books. If you haven’t read them, I recommend starting with Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and working your way through to his collaboration with Charles Stross, Rapture of the Nerds. Don’t miss out on his fantastic Young Adult novels For The Win, Pirate Cinema, Little Brother and its sequel Homeland. They’re all great.
Former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founder of the Open Rights Group, Cory is a tireless fighter for freedom, campaigning against censorship, DRM, government surveillance and other plagues of our time.
Cory delivered the closing keynote at the very first dConstruct and it’s truly fitting that he’s back ten years later when the theme of this year’s dConstruct is “Living With The Network.”
In the second of our anonymous double-bill interviews, Aleks Krotoski talks to Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor software project.
Tor is an encryption software, known as "onion routing", that allows people to browse online anonymously, hiding their location and avoiding traffic analytics associated with their online activity.
The software began as a project sponsored by the US naval research laboratory but is now run as a not-for-profit business that offers the software free of charge online.
Aleks and Andrew discuss the role of Tor and its wish to create an anonymous space online. They also talk about the growing trend for companies to collate and monitor your online activity in order to build up a profile of you for monetary gain.