Innovators, Mind Your Mother

This article is an excerpt from a book in progress, titled The Silica Papers: Who Technology Is and What She Wants. Silica is the name I have given to the technosphere—the totality of human artifacts constructed over eons by human beings that allows us to survive and improve our lot. Except that things don’t necessarily get better in every way. To underscore how technology drives us as much as we drive it, I have personified Silica as sort of a demigod-in-waiting, a female force of nature I also call Stepmother Earth, who’s not quite sentient but quickly becoming so.
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The Daily (or whenever) Eruption


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Evolution As a Team Sport: Thursday 4/5/18

Chances are you are a cultural, political or economic malcontent if your eyeballs have come to rest right here. You probably worry about what it might take to set society on a sustainable path, so here’s a suggestion.

Teacher, author, media critic and activist Douglas Rushkoff has been tracking the digital revolution for decades and knows what has made it go so terribly wrong. He’s said so in books like Present Shock and Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and at innumerable meetings and interviews. The nub of most of our problems, he asserts, are bugs in how public corporations are programmed, causing them to strip-mine value from society, stupefying, surveilling, and stiffing the public. He’s a tireless advocate for generative social and economic arrangements that create value for local and online communities rather than extracting it to faraway investors.

For several years, he has been working to build a community of the like-minded online. Team Human has a couple of hundred members who pony up $5 to Patreon to network with Douglas and one another. It’s quite an interesting group, reminiscent of The WELL, an Internet community gathered by Whole Earth Catalog refugees like Stewart Brand, Howard Rheingold (in conversation here), John Perry Barlow, and it’s still going strong after 35 years. (WELL stands for Whole Earth ‘Lectric Link.)

Every week or so, Team Human issues a podcast. Douglas riffs on some topic for ten minutes and then interviews some interesting folks from technology, the arts, or some innovative community. He’s just finished writing a book on that project that will come out next year.

It may seem like all this is to Rushkoff’s greater glory, and perhaps it is. I don’t have a problem with his success because I support what he stands for; Team Human is simply its latest efflorescence. On its Slack site (members only) I’ve encountered some curious good-hearted characters, along with their ideas and endeavors. Completely civil conversations snake around communitarian topics to which Rushkoff often adds his two cents. As one team member said, “If even 2ppl connect on TH and make something happen, that, imo, is a win.”

If you’re feeling lonely online, consider alternatives to the toots, tweets, and trolls of solipsistic social media, whether down the block or out on the Net. Involve yourself in something bigger and get a piece of the action.

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Cutting Cords to Kurds: Facebook’s Foreign Policy

NOTE: This article has been updated to include subsequent events. It is also posted on CounterPunch.

One of my correspondents (let’s call her Jinwar), a supporter of autonomous areas in northwestern Kurdistan, notified me that Facebook had deleted her support group’s page plus her personal page as well those of others, requesting that the above graphic be shared widely on social media. (But before doing so, please read the last four paragraphs.)

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A.I. Enablers Gear Up to Assault Intellect

Perhaps you haven’t noticed the investor class getting all gung-ho these days over Artificial Intelligence (AI). Only a couple of decades ago, these same people dismissed AI because it wasn’t very useful yet. But that’s all changed due to advances in machine vision and learning, and now VCs, hedge funds, and most of the rest of the usual big-money suspects are salivating over prospects of automating most of the rest of the economy, even including agriculture.

Thanks to its clot of institutions of higher learning, Boston—my fair city—is littered with tech startups and factories that churn them out. They and the Hub’s cloud of serial investors have created a knot of compressed energy, the nexus of which one can find at a suite in Kendall Square—epicenter of Boston’s tech scene, featuring outposts of Google, Oracle, Facebook and Amazon, pharma firms like Merck and Novartis and a host of biotechy startups fed by MIT’s biomedical research complex, augmented by its AI and Media Labs—where every Thursday evening prime movers get together for suds and savvy strategizing at private oasis called Venture Café. Continue reading “A.I. Enablers Gear Up to Assault Intellect”