Aleks Krotoski and Jemima Kiss report from the SXSWi festival in Austin, Texas
A Series of Information Explosions
As usual, microbes led the way.
Bacteria have swarmed in intense networks for 3.5 billion years.
Then a hierarchical form emerged with the first nucleated cells that were made up of an enclosed society of formerly independent organisms.
That’s the pattern for the evolution of information, Alex Wright said.
Networks coalesce into hierarchies, which then form a new level of networks, which coalesce again, and so on.
Thus an unending series of information explosions is finessed.
In humans, classification schemes emerged everywhere, defining how things are connected in larger contexts.
Researchers into “folk taxonomies” have found that all cultures universally describe things they care about in hierarchical layers, and those hierarchies are usually five layers deep.
Family tree hierarchies were accorded to the gods, who were human-like personalities but also represented various natural forces.
Starting 30,000 years ago the “ice age information explosion” brought the transition to collaborative big game hunting, cave paintings, and elaborate decorative jewelry that carried status information.
It was the beginning of information’s “release from social proximity.”
5,000 years ago in Sumer, accountants began the process toward writing, beginning with numbers, then labels and lists, which enabled bureaucracy.
Scribes were just below kings in prestige.
Finally came written narratives such as Gilgamesh.
The move from oral culture to literate culture is profound.
Oral is additive, aggregative, participatory, and situational, where literate is subordinate, analytic, objective, and abstract.
(One phenomenon of current Net culture is re-emergence of oral forms in email, twittering, YouTube, etc.)
Wright honored the sequence of information-ordering visionaries who brought us to our present state.
In 1883 Charles Cutter devised a classification scheme that led in part to the Library of Congress system and devised an apparatus of keyboard and wires that would fetch the desired book.
H.G. Wells proposed a “world brain” of data and imagined that it would one day wake up.
Teilhard de Chardin anticipated an “etherization of human consciousness” into a global noosphere.
The greatest unknown revolutionary was the Belgian Paul Otlet.
In 1895 he set about freeing the information in books from their bindings.
He built a universal decimal classification and then figured out how that organized data could be explored, via “links” and a “web.”
In 1910 Otlet created a “radiated library” called the Mundameum in Brussels that managed search queries in a massive way until the Nazis destroyed the service.
Alex Wright showed an astonishing video of how Otlet’s distributed telephone-plus-screen system worked.
Wright concluded with the contributions of Vannevar Bush (”associative trails” in his Memex system), Eugene Garfield’s Science Citation Index, the predecessor of page ranking.
Doug Engelbart’s working hypertext system in the “mother of all demos.”
And Ted Nelson who helped inspire Engelbart and Berners-Lee and who Wright considers “directly responsible for the generation of the World Wide Web.”
All the things we love on the internet — from websites that give us information to services that connect us — are made stronger when their creators come with different points of view. With this in mind, we asked ourselves and our guests: “What would the internet look like if it was built by mostly women?”
Witchsy founders Kate Dwyer and Penelope Gazin start us off with a story about the stunt they had to pull to get their site launched — and counter the sexist attitudes they fought against along the way. Brenda Darden Wilkerson recalls her life in tech in the 80s and 90s, and shares her experience leading AnitaB.org, an organization striving to get more women hired in tech. Coraline Ada Ehmke created the Contributor Covenant, a voluntary code of conduct being increasingly adopted by the open source community. She explains why she felt it necessary, and how it’s been received; and Mighty Networks CEO Gina Bianchini rolls her eyes at being called a “lady CEO,” and tells us why diversifying the boardroom is great for business and innovation.
As New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continues to galvanize the left (and frustrate the right), what’s driving her unique appeal has become an increasingly compelling question. Is it her identity or her substantive politics? Or both?
Ocasio-Cortez’s embrace of democratic socialism has been emphasized by the right, which seeks to paint her as out of touch with mainstream American values. But arguably, it’s her progressive ideals that provide the basis for a human-centered politics that connect with a majority of Americans.
The Intercept’s Senior Politics Editor Briahna Gray will talk to Ocasio-Cortez about identity, the race/class divide, and how these factors are likely to play out in the years ahead.
In this episode, I talk with Amber Baldet from Clovyr. We talk about surveillance capitalism and the increasing hunger for data by Silicon Valley behemoths, the impact on society as well as question recent Coinbase decisions and Web 3.0.
Once humans start colonizing other planets, how will politics work between Earth and those who live offworld? Ariel is joined by author Annalee Newitz and linguist Nick Farmer—who works on the show the Expanse—to discuss science fiction’s portrayal of realistic space politics!
Tim FitzHigham is a record breaking adventurer who sets off to cross the English Channel in a bath.
Fire up your Netscape Navigators! Alli and Jen talk to Jay Hoffmann, author of The History of the Web, about his research into the early internet.
The History of the Web is a weekly newsletter that began as a place for coders to reminisce about CSS and Bulletin Board software. But it quickly evolved into a definitive timeline of our shared online history. The story of the Web (the public-facing network of pages that everyone has access to) is arguably the most important sociological endeavor of our time.
This week on 2 Girls 1 Podcast, Alli and Jen (actors who perform weird internet stuff on stage) chat with Jay Hoffmann, author of The History of the Web, about his inspiration and research into the early internet, and the proto-communities that formed online in the ’90s around weblogs, browser wars, grief, and virtual pets.
Alexis Madrigal joins Matt Thompson to solve the ills of the modern internet.
This week, Phia wonders what kind of person falls for phishing attacks. Is it only insanely gullible luddites, or can smart, tech savvy people get phished, too? To find out, she conducts an experiment on her poor, unsuspecting coworkers.
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