aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, October 23, 2005
I seem to recall Kelly O’Donnell saying on The Chris Matthews Show this morning that officials were wondering if Osama Bin Laden had been killed by the earthquake. Now I read that a Pakistani newspaper is saying he died four months ago:
According to the newspaper report, Bin Laden was campaigning at Bamiyan, fell very ill, returned to Kandahar where he died and was buried in the Shada graveyard in the shadow of a mountain.
The controversy continues to surround Osama bin Laden and while US and Pakistan officials have often been quoted by the media as saying that his mortal status was just a matter of detail, the hunt is still on and the issue remains a topic of great interest for the media and governments alike.
The Singularity is Near
“The Singularity Is Near” is startling in scope and bravado. Mr. Kurzweil envisions breathtakingly exponential progress, and he is merely extrapolating from established data. To his way of thinking, “when scientists become a million times more intelligent and operate a million times faster, an hour would result in a century of progress (in today’s terms).” The underpinnings of this logic go beyond the familiar to suggest that the pace of evolution (he has no doubts about Darwin) is logarithmic - another indication that the future is almost here.
Like string theory’s concept of an 11-dimensional universe, Mr. Kurzweil’s projections are as abstract and largely untested as they are alluring. Predictions from his earlier books (including “The Age of Spiritual Machines” and “The Age of Intelligent Machines") have been borne out, but much of his thinking tends to be pie in the sky. He promotes buoyant optimism more readily than he contemplates the darker aspects of progress. He is more eager to think about the life-enhancing powers of nanotechnology than to wonder what happens if cell-size computers within the human body run amok.
In the last part of the book, he engages in one-sided batting practice with his critics. He introduces each complaint only to swat it into oblivion. By and large he is a blinkered optimist, disinclined to contemplate the dangers of what he imagines.
A man I admire and with whom I wholeheartedly agree:
If the author is right, Singularity-phobes will look no less shortsighted when the dividing line between humans and machines erodes. “This is not because humans will have become what we think of as machines today,” he writes, “but rather machines will have progressed to be like humans and beyond.” In other words, “technology will be the metaphorical opposable thumb that enables our next step in evolution.”
On technology and age-old problems
These technologies actually move in the right direction. And they move in the right direction also in the have have-not issue… I mean it’s tragic that we didn’t do more for AIDS… But the technology moves in the right direction because of the law of accelerating returns. A technology is introduced and only the wealthy can use it. At that point it doesn’t work very well. Later on it works a little bit better and it’s merely very expensive. And then it works a lot better and it’s inexpensive and ultimately it’s almost free. Cell phones are at the very inexpensive stage and working quite well…
The same thing has been true with drugs… AIDS drugs were $30,000 and didn’t work early in that disease. Now they’re down to $100 in Africa and actually work pretty well. So there’s more that we should do for the have have-not divide, but the law of accelerating returns itself is pushing it in the right direction. Ultimately we will have great wealth available, we’ll have tremendous decentralized power to overcome age-old problems.
The full interview, on Tech Nation with Dr. Moira Gunn from ITConversations, is recommended listening.
On paradigm shifts
Lest you think that I believe that publishing will be brought down and there will be no need for libraries and that newspapers will fail and cease to exist, I quote with great admiration this clip of Ray Kurzweil discussing communications paradigm shifts:
New communications paradigms...don’t eclipse old paradigms. We see that in general; people are still pushing plows. We still have newspapers and magazines… these paradigms actually continue, but the new paradigms—blogs, podcasting—all the different forms of communication become new business models in and of themselves, and they generally expand the pie. They’re really fueling economic growth. And they’re also profoundly democratizing in my view… So I think we’ll continue to have unpredictable new forms of media that will emerge very quickly.
Emphasis mine. And movies didn’t kill theater, television didn’t kill movies, cable didn’t kill networks, and you and me TV won’t kill cable. But we can bet it will dramatically change.
The full interview, on Tech Nation with Dr. Moira Gunn from ITConversations, is a good listen.
Same sex couples make good parents
“The vast consensus of all the studies shows that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way,” [Ellen C. Perrin, MD, professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston] tells WebMD. “In some ways children of same-sex parents actually may have advantages over other family structures.”
Via Terrance at Republic of T. A Georgia native, he’s one proud gay father. Still:
At one point, one of the relatives remarked that she could tell from watching Parker that we’re good parents. Of course, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be. Yet I can’t help feeling somewhat validated by a study like this. Almost as if it’s needed in order to prove what we already know, but that the rest of the world doesn’t get.
When I was growing up, I was taught that as an African American male there would probably be times when I’d have to be better, faster, and smarter than the next person just to break even and be considered “good enough,” not necessarily to get ahead. I think in some ways the same might apply to being a gay parent.
Probably so. Keep up the good work Terrance.
Who will be the next Google?
At the peak of its power and dread, I liked Microsoft. I liked Office even as I understood it’s bloated dirty code. And I like Windows even with its flaws.
I agreed with those who wanted the government to break them up into OS and software companies. I was wrong. Microsoft was benchmarked against some ideal that was just that. An ideal. A worthy target. Unachievable.
Later this week Google will have their invite-only Zeitgeist conference. It’s as closed as a conference can be. And this is the company we lifted on our shoulders and held up as a shining example of the web at its best. We were wrong to do that, but forgive us for having hope. At some core level Google did understand the web, but there was also a lot about Google that was against the web, and now that’s most of what they are.
This is the struggle we are constantly dealing with in the tech business. For a while we send up a beacon, a shining star, and it’s exciting! Then they forget their values, where they came from, what made it work for them, and we follow them down into bad years. You’d think we could learn, but apparently we can’t. Now can we survive their downfall? That’s a good question, and one I don’t know the answer to.
The excitement today has an element of panic to it. In our gut we can see that the growth is likely to end almost before it gets started. We see Google doing what we knew in our hearts they would do, pick fights with powerful industries that we have nothing against. The publishing industry has done more to support my vision that Google ever has, in fact Google has fought me, at a petty, immature level, based on being incompatible, if you can imagine that, where the publishing industry adopted RSS as-is, without trying to change it or break it. They say the publishers are clueless, I think it’s Google’s management that desperately needs to find its place in the world. I criticize the NY Times, god knows they deserve it, but when I call Martin Nisenholtz, he takes the call, and we work together, in productive ways. This is the east coast way of doing things. It’s something Silicon Valley, which is run by immature men, needs to learn. We don’t have to agree on everything to work together. In fact we must work together, and honor our differences with respect.
There is cause for hope. Google isn’t the only act in town. Yahoo could challenge their dominance. I hope they do, and I hope they don’t do it by being like Google. Embrace the world instead of picking fights with it. Work together because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s good for business. Point off-site, share the flow, come to BBQs and BloggerCons, know that the bright eyes of happy independent developers are the source of the ideas that drive this place, and make sure there’s always a sense that this place is come as you are, no invite required and totally 1.0
I don’t know much but I know that even if Yahoo! is a successful challenger, it’s not the next Google—and I love what Yahoo!’s doing. I think this time it’s possible that the new Google will come from nowhere. Anywhere. And stay there not needing to come to Silicon Valley or New York or LA or London or Tokyo or Hong Kong.
To address more directly Dave’s disenchantment, my experience is that our individual idealized hopes invested in the establishment and ethic of a development makes it hard to let go and accept what happens as it succeeds.
Maybe Dave’s way would be better and it would be good if it had been Larry and Sergey and Dave. But I think giant is necessary and Google’s about as gentle a giant as we can achieve. Today. Better than Pfizer or Wal-Mart or GM or BP or Exxon or GE or AXA or Citigroup.
Maybe the next Google will be a company that discovers the next iteration of the “franchise.” A company that “shares the flow” and recognizes bright-eyed happy independent developers’ ideas and collectivizes those individual small companies. We all know that small companies are better able to innovate and integrate and deploy new ideas.
But spare me the nostalgia for the publisher’s empire. That empire makes the few rich and allows the many to remain unread and would keep the micro-audiences of the masses forever unfathomable.
I hope the next Google will have a conference that is not invitation only. I hope so because Dave’s ideals are good and right and should be. But the perfect is the enemy of the good. Google’s good. Fine to criticize; not to demonize.
Via Dan Gillmor.