Singularity – In another 100 years (sans major wars, famines, or diseases) computers will be unimaginably smarter than humans and other advances in sciences like biotech and nanotech will have made our physical bodies irrelevant. This seems like common sense to me. In fact, I don’t argue with the people who say it might happen sooner. This possibility, commonly called singularity, has many followers. In a way, it is as if the whole world is realizing that we’ve already built a tower ten times the size of Babel and God hasn’t woken up yet — and if we can have just a few more minutes, we’ll be able to finally sneak in and see what heaven is like. Of course, even the conservative estimates of singularity would say that a human intellect compared to a cockroach is a charitable comparison when the human intellect is pitted agsinst the computers of singularity. The idea that these computers will even comprehend that humans want the computers to be our servants is perhaps as believable as the guy who talks to cockroaches and knows what they want. In other words, the world of singularity is certainly not a world for humans — at least not humans in any form remotely comprehensible to us today (and if humans morph into transcendental unified trans-bloogified entities, we aren’t really humans anymore, are we?). So there is quite a bit of speculation about whether it will be “good” or “bad” when (if) we get a chance to blow the lid off this thing. I personally don’t see how such distinctions will be possible, any more than a rock can contemplate the “goodness” of the current world. I also know that sitting around speculating about it is not going to do much more than give the crabs a chance to cook up a scheme to pull the tower back down. And one cannot judge harshly those who decided that the tower was the road to hell. If the crab climbs out of the pot, what’s to say that he won’t attract the attention of a hungry predator and get the whole pot gobbled up? Maybe the other crabs are wise to question exactly what it is that seems to be hypnotizing Jonathon Livingston Crab and making him so anxious to leave the safe comfort of the bucket? All vanity, anyway…
Real Honkers do Real Things – “The manifesto of Honker maintains the reunification of the motherland! Guards the national sovereignty! Outside consistent resistance shame! Attack anti-Chinese arrogance!”. Is it just me, or doesn’t this just blow away “All Your Base are Belong to Us”? All your base was a fun meme; but these guys took over 8,836 real “bases” in one massive sweep. Laowais gotta respect that… (And I wonder why nobody pointed out the irony that Radio Userland’s updates server is called superhonker.userland.com? That honker has got to be updating quite a few bases a day by now).
Polarization? – Craig Burton is usually cool about checking his facts before posting things, but his latest commentary on open source has me questioning some things. Mostly I take issue with the presuppositions supposited liberally throughout the article. For those who are not familiar with the rude device known as presupposition, consider the example of a lawyer asking a witness, “Answer me yes or no: was your boss aware that you are a wife-beater?” Craig first tries to get you to presuppose as fact that Mundie’s comments are aimed at somehow doing battle with “Microsoft Detractors”. The fact that we disagree with orthodox Raymondism or orthodox Stallmanism should be no surprise. And after five years worth of the so-called open-source “movement” speaking on the topic virtually unchallenged, you would think that people would welcome another perspective. Instead it seems that Craig would have Microsoft remain mute, since apparently anything that disagrees with Raymondism is “a hostile participant”. Markets are conversations, but god forbid that anyone should have a disagreement. And the presupposition that this is a conversation between “open source” and “Microsoft” is fundamentally flawed, and exactly the sort of thing that leads to the polarization that Craig laments. The fact is, there are many software licensing schemes available, and reasonable humans use the right license for the job. To say that “open source” people use only one particular license or that Microsoft uses only one particular license is completely wrong. Licensing choices lie on one big continuum and Microsoft and “open source” can and do overlap frequently (I am anxiously awaiting the release of IBM DB2 source code). Pointing this out seems the opposite of polarization, and in fact I cannot see how “fragmentation” and “polarization” can be anything other than semantically opposed. So, suppose we de-suppose the strange idea that Microsoft is “hostile”. Next Burton has us accept as fact that irrational investor pessimism is the main thing stopping Internet companies from making a difference these days. He argues that Microsoft’s questioning of the GPL lack of business model will make investor money tight. This reminds me of The Long Boom, in which the authors argue that optimism is the only engine of economic growth. I participated in an Internet startup in that time period between when Mosaic and Netscape were released, and I can testify that VC money is still a heck of alot easier to get than it was then. My experience leads me to believe that easy money from investors is useful only for con-games, and it really doesn’t take that much money to make a difference on the Internet. Maybe all of the baby-boomers who bet (and lost) their retirements on the Internet bubble will be happy to know that all it really takes is a positive mental outlook, instead of those difficult things like (for example) providing something of enough value that real people are willing to pay real money for it. Wild promises of overnight fortunes aren’t high on people’s lists of things they value anymore, so Craig can expect the VC money tree to be barren for awhile longer. Moving on, we are asked to presume that Microsoft’s attempt to engage in rational dialogue is “baiting”, and the statement that “this will happen whether Microsoft likes it or not”, comes close to presupposing that Microsoft is opposed to moving the Internet to the next level. Of course, Burton’s assertion about the core infrastructure of the Internet being open-source could mean many things, so it is hard to tell whether I agree or not. For example, many would consider Cisco to be a core of the Internet, and the operating system software that runs the Cisco routers (IOS) as being a key component. I think I missed the news release about that being GPL.
Stick to Journalism – Thomas C. Greene does what cDc wants and passes on the news of the upcoming PeekABooty tool. It is slightly newsworthy that someone is working on “yet another anonymous browsing tool”. The fact that cDc has some people like dilldog who are actually capable of shipping good software means that something may come of this one. But even Mr. Greene acknowledges that there are other shipping tools that enable anonymous browsing. So it is really hard to stomach when Greene veers off into outer-space and starts projecting all of his loftiest political sentiments onto the cDc members. He proclaims, “That it has both political and philosophical dimensions is no accident. The group is quite conscious of both, and is developing the tool deliberately in anticipation of political impact. In that sense, it represents hacktivism at its best.” And it goes downhill from there. If you can read the article without puking, you’ll wonder what the last half of the article has to do with journalism. If Mr. Greene had been privileged to sit through the looooong and embarassingly desperate-for-attention BO2K launch announcement, he might have attributed different motives. You can’t fault the cDc, though – if whoring for attention is your goal, socially engineering naive reporters like Mr. Greene into free advertising for yet another lame anonymizer is a nice skill to have.
Conversations – Doc Searls is having a conversation about open source vs. shared source (or was it “scared source”). One interesting quote: “I’d add that the argument would be a lot easier to watch Â— and a lot more useful Â— if the credit -takers were not also discredit-givers.” And you have to admire the distinction between “FUD for thought” and “Food for thought”.
More Sony – Sony announces they will align with Torvald’s Transmeta for chips in their notebooks. Sony is aligning with another Microsoft enemy, RealNetworks, to supply streaming media playback on Playstation gaming consoles. And now AOL and Sony are teaming to offer Internet access on the PlayStation. Sony has overcome inventory problems just in time for rising demand for its consoles. With AOL now accounting for half of all minutes spent online by Internet users and Sony dominant in the living room; you can’t blame me for being paranoid. It is interesting to note that none of these guys are handing out source code.
Ouch! – Scott McNealy directly insults potential customers for choosing Microsoft instead of Sun, using his typically colorful drug-dealing metaphors. I wonder if Scott realizes that the world’s first corporations (and the foundation of British world power) were collectives set up to transport and sell such drugs as tea, tobacco, rum, and opium. So it would seem that McNealy’s metaphors were completely misdirected for an audience of British government workers. Perhaps Scott is losing it due to his 98 percent pay cut. But he couldn’t be half as upset as Cisco, who has piled up more than 2 BILLION dollars of excess inventory that must now be destroyed! The thought of 2 billion dollars worth of Cisco hardware being ripped apart for scrap metal is truly mind-boggling. My first thought is “How the heck did that happen?!” and my second thought is “How do I get my hands on some of that equipment?”. The swiftness and size of the economic downturn in the tech sector has been very humbling, and more than a bit frightening. And I have to agree with Scott when he says, “People are claiming that they’re seeing the bottom. I don’t know where they’re getting that data. They certainly didn’t see the cliff, so how in the world can they see the bottom?”
Sony Bank? – Sony is getting into banking now. It seems pretty clear that the three biggest Microsoft competitors in the next few years will be (in no particular order) Sony, AOL, and IBM. But this move by Sony seems pretty strange to me. Trying to convince an entire nation to put personal money in the stock market instead of low-interest savings accounts (as most Japanese do today) seems like a terribly inefficient way to pump up your own stock price. And other than the fact that Sony will use proprietary software instead of web-based banking (?!?), it is quite difficult to imagine how this could be a fit with their overall strategy. One of the touted features of their software will be the ability to show projected savings, portfolio, etc. Isn’t it inconceivable that Japanese consumers do not already have easy access to such tools? Hmmm…