Every society fears a new technology, and when it eventually embraces it, it does it by declaring the death of the previous technology (which never dies completely) and adapts the vocabulary of the previous technology for its own uses. And yet, both in Socrates’ case, and in the case of the electronic technology, our active memory is threatened if we allow an instrument to do the memorizing for... us. There is a distinction that is important between memorizing, as a book or a computer can do, and remembering, which we alone can do through the unfathomably complex system of thinking.
Christopher Butler chrbutler
COO of Newfangled.com, author of The Strategic Web Designer, columnist at PRINT, blogger, infrequent designer, bookworm, science fiction enthusiast...
Pattern recognition pertains to perception specifically, not to all mental activity: the perceptual systems process stimuli and categorize what is presented to the senses, but that is only part of the activity of the mind. In what way does thinking involve processing a stimulus and categorizing it? When I am thinking about London while in Miami I am not recognizing any presented stimulus as... London—since I am not perceiving London with my senses. There is no perceptual recognition going on at all in thinking about an absent object. So pattern recognition cannot be the essential nature of thought. This point seems totally obvious and quite devastating, yet Kurzweil has nothing to say about it, not even acknowledging the problem.
Yet as Elisa Lam lay floating in a hotel water tank, decomposing without the preservative assistance of the formaldehyde in Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” guests at the hotel drank her fluids. Like the Tumblr teen-girl aesthetic that is currently making its way through the veins and channels of culture, Lam is everywhere, seeping into the pores... of the Internet’s most hidden corners. The media sensation that her death became, along with the teen-girl online social universe she embodied, has metastasized.
Amazon is good at sorting and ranking things—we understand that. It knows exactly how many boxes of diapers my kids have ever used. It knows every book I’ve considered. It’s also clear that Amazon doesn’t care about what it sells; it just cares about the selling. To Amazon, a book isn’t really a book. It’s the result of a database query that Amazon will seamlessly transmit over its Whispernet or... via USPS to your doorstep, if that’s still your thing. To the shopper, Amazon, with its records of browsing and buying, is not a store nor a website, but more like a ghost limb, for grabbing whatever is needed or wanted.
It’s been my experience that the main reason most designs go unsolved is not the lack of talented designers or their interest in solving the problem. Instead, the problem is with the organisation themselves - their inability to allow themselves to implement the right design, or even any good design.
Nihilist Seeks Not Quite Nothing Me: No bed of roses. Like waterboarding. The American way. Tooth decay. Facial imperfections. Squandered genius. Nasty reputation. Check out the thinning hair. Anti-this, anti-that, pro-not much. Morose. Morbid. Corrosive. Enemies list. Lives in the past. Megalomania. Limited palette. Horror of pets. Lapsed Catholic. Two years older than Jesus when he was... crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures to descant and yet again descant upon the supreme theme of art and song: the earth is an oyster with nothing inside it, and not to be born is the best for man. In other words, past “my prime.” Congenital tremor. Heart murmur. Insomnia. Vices. Nondomestic. Emotionally autistic “But you’re a very sweet person,” says someone else. Maybe. “[Not] ugly,” says someone else. Perhaps. Six foot four. London. You: Knows how to read.
The reason people struggle with the tension between online experience and offline experience is because there is a tension between online experience and offline experience, and people are smart enough to understand, to feel, that the tension does not evaporate as the online intrudes ever further into the offline. In fact, the growing interpenetration between the two modes of experience—the two... states of being—actually ratchets up the tension. We sense a threat in the hegemony of the online because there’s something in the offline that were not eager to sacrifice.
Much as I’m fascinated by 3-D printing, there’s a pretty serious catch, and it has to do with that processing/properties relationship. You can 3-D-print a Japanese sword out of steel, with sub-micron precision, but it still won’t have the amazing properties of the forged version, which results in a carefully-controlled atomic architecture of steel and carbon atoms. More prosaically, the same is true for a plastic shopping bag—the act of drawing the polymer into a film orients the molecules, making it stronger and stiffer.
For example, you might feel that with the end looming, we no longer have any need for manners. If this is what you feel, you’re wrong. I won’t tell you just how wrong because that wouldn’t be very polite and we are going to need to maintain a sense of decency toward one another. Believe me, it’s gonna be the grease that helps us slide down the pole, and we’re all going down, but that’s no reason to get any unnecessary rashes.
What we really need are more scouts stationed at the borders between these distinct internets: watching for bits of culture on both sides, slinging them back and forth. On their own, translations are inert. To become meaningful, they require attention, and in the absence of marketing budgets, a pretty reliable way to generate attention is through good—yes!—curation.
The reality is, there’s a huge gap between what looks good on film and what is natural to use. Movie computers are designed to look cinemagenic. Mostly this translates into transparent screens and huge fonts—things nobody would try and put on a phone. But touch-screen interfaces, which look great because of how easy it is to tell what a user is doing on camera, have managed to take over our lives.
The most worrisome smart-technology projects start from the assumption that designers know precisely how we should behave, so the only problem is finding the right incentive. A truly smart trash bin, by contrast, would make us reflect on our recycling habits and contribute to conscious deliberation—say, by letting us benchmark our usual recycling behavior against other people in our demographic, instead of trying to shame us with point deductions and peer pressure.
A society which disregards those who are weak and non-productive risks exaggerating the development of reason, organization, aggression and the desire to dominate. It becomes a society without heart, without kindness — a rational and sad society, lacking celebration, divided within itself and given to competition, rivalry and, finally violence.
The problem with many smart technologies is that their designers, in the quest to root out the imperfections of the human condition, seldom stop to ask how much frustration, failure and regret is required for happiness and achievement to retain any meaning.
“We’re surrounded by objects and systems that are too big or too opaque to understand — everything from the global banking system, to the Edgerank algorithm Facebook uses to order your newsfeed,” says Webb. “And the effect of this alienation is felt subtly: I believe it means we can never build a good mental model of the technologies we use. We’re constantly having our expectations slightly violated, we feel a little itchy, like we don’t fit comfortably in our own world.”
It’s as if we have suddenly discovered the first medium in history that comes with limitations. We’re definitely not on an island here: Every medium has faced limitations — and continues to face them.
Try to figure out why you’re procrastinating. Maybe you need to brainstorm more to improve an idea. Maybe the idea is no good as is. Maybe you need to delegate. Maybe you need to learn more. Maybe you don’t enjoy what you are doing. Maybe you don’t like the client whose project you’re working on. Maybe you need to take a break. There’s only so many seconds in a row you can think about something... before you need to take time off and rejuvenate the creative muscles. This is not for everyone. Great people can storm right through. Steve Jobs never needed to take a break. But I do. Procrastination could also be a strong sign that you’re a perfectionist, or that you’re filled with shame issues. This will block you from building and selling your business. Examine your procrastination from every side. It’s your body trying to tell you something. Listen to it.
This morning I felt as if I was in an M.R. James novel: alone on a misty country lane, listening to the sound of horses hooves that seemed to approach, but never arrived. I don't believe in ghosts, but fog has a curious ability to induce feelings of paranoia. When the visible world is reduced to a radius of 20 yards, the sounds that come from beyond its limits can seem vaguely threatening.
We are caught in a consumer culture that works against our innate creativity. The economic crisis of 2008 might have heralded the collapse of that culture. The consumerist economic model — itself a set of ad hoc compromises following the death of the industrial model — has reached the end of its useful existence. It evolved for a world where technology placed creativity in the hands of the few and... television communicated their message to the masses, in what the entrepreneur Seth Godin has called the TV-industrial complex. Today, the internet has decentralised communications, and computers the size of an iPhone place vast creative resources in the hands of broad swathes of the population. The ongoing financial crisis is a symptom of an economy that has fallen behind its own technological capacities.
This gap has a dramatic effect on the relationship. No longer are they just driven by their lust for one another. Instead, in time, a more expansive intimacy develops, which has a quality akin to friendship. The words of the French writer and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry come to mind: ‘Experience shows us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same... direction.’ As lovers, two people look only into each other’s eyes; as friends, they can look ahead together. They begin to see a life that lies beyond them and, supported by one another — now standing in love — they have the resources to step into the future together.