summing up 103

summing up is a recurring series on digital strategy topics & insights that compose a large part of my thinking and work. drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

Rethinking CS Education, by Alan Kay

If you want to get something done, the way you do it is not so much trying to convince somebody but to create a tribe that is a conspiracy. Because anthropologically that is what we are more than any other thing. We are tribal beings and we tend to automatically oppose things outside of our tribe, even if they're good ideas, because that isn't the way we think – in fact we don't think we're not primarily thinking animals.

The theatrical part of this is lots bigger than we think, the limitations are much smaller than we think and the relationship we have with our heritage is that we are much more different than we think we are. I hate to see computing and computer science watered down to some terrible kind of engineering that the Babylonians might have failed at.

That is pathetic! And I'm saying it in this strong way because you need to realize that we're in the middle of a complete form of bullshit that has grown up out of the pop culture.

We're stuck in conversations around hypes and trending technological topics. At the same time our world gets ever more complex and throws ever more complex problems at us. I really hope that we can grow up soon and use the power the computer grants us to actually augment ourselves.

Neither Paper Nor Digital Does Active Reading Well, by Baldur Bjarnason

A recurring theme in software development is the more you dig into the research the greater the distance is between what actual research seems to say versus what the industry practices.

Develop a familiarity with, for example, Alan Kay’s or Douglas Engelbart’s visions for the future of computing and you are guaranteed to become thoroughly dissatisfied with the limitations of every modern OS. Reading up hypertext theory and research, especially on hypertext as a medium, is a recipe for becoming annoyed at The Web. Catching up on usability research throughout the years makes you want to smash your laptop agains the wall in anger. And trying to fill out forms online makes you scream ‘it doesn’t have to be this way!’ at the top of your lungs.

That software development doesn’t deal with research or attempts to get at hard facts is endemic to the industry.

It seems crazy to me that most other subjects look at their history, while computing mostly ignores the past, thinking that new is always better. The problem these days isn't how to innovate, but how to get society to adopt the good ideas that already exist.

If Software Is Eating the World, What Will Come Out the Other End? by John Battelle

So far, it’s mostly shit. Most of our society simply isn’t benefiting from this trend of software eating the world. In fact, most of them live in the very world that software ate.

The world is not just software. The world is physics, it’s crying babies and shit on the sidewalk, it’s opioids and ecstasy, it’s car crashes and Senate hearings, lovers and philosophers, lost opportunities and spinning planets around untold stars. The world is still real.

Software – data, code, algorithms, processing – software has dressed the world in new infrastructure. But this is a conversation, not a process of digestion. It is a conversation between the physical and the digital, a synthesis we must master if we are to avoid terrible fates, and continue to embrace fantastic ones.

Only those who know nothing of the history of technology believe that a technology is entirely neutral. It always has implications, positive and negative. And all too often we seem to ignore the downsides of this in our physical world. The world we live in, and the technology as well.


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