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Book Mini-Review: Makers: the New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson 

This is a fun book  by the former editor-in-chief of WIRED , author of The Long Tail and the co-founder of 3D Robotics, Chris Anderson. Part pop culture, part tech-optimist futurism and all DIY business book, Anderson is preaching a revolution, one brought about by the intersection of 3D printing and open source “Maker movement” culture, that he believes will be bigger and more transformative to society than was the Web. One with the potential to change the “race to the bottom” economic logic of globalization by allowing manufacturing entrepreneurs to be smart, small, nimble and global by sharing bits and selling atoms.

Anderson writes:

Here’s the history of two decades of innovation in two sentences: The past ten years have been about discovering new ways to create, invent, and work together on the Web. The next ten years will be about applying those lessons to the real world.

This book is about the next ten years.

….Why? Because making things has gone digital: physical objects now begin as designs on screens, and those designs can be shared online as files…..once an industry goes digital in changes in profound ways, as we’ve seen in everything from retail to publishing. The biggest transformation, but in who’s doing it. Once things can be done on regular computers, they can be done by anyone. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing happening in manufacturing.

…..In short, the Maker Movement shares three characteristics,  all of which I’d argue are transformative:

1. People using digital desktop tools to create designs for new products and prototype them (“digital DIY”)

2. A cultural norm to share those designs and collaborate with others in online communities.

3. The use of common design file standards that allow anyone, if they desire, to send their designs to commercial manufacturing services to be produced in any number, just as easily as they can fabricate them on their desktop. This radically foreshortens the path from idea to entrepreneurship, just as the Web did in software, information, and content.

Nations whose entire strategy rests upon being the provider of cheapest labor per unit cost on all scales are going to be in jeopardy if local can innovate, customize and manufacture in near-real time response to customer demand. Creativity of designers and stigmergic /stochastic collaboration of communities rise in economic value relative to top-down, hierarchical production systems with long development lags and capital tied up betting on having large production runs.

Interesting, with potentially profound implications.

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New Book: The Rise of Siri by Shlok Vaidya

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

The Rise of Siri by Shlok Vaidya 

Shlok Vaidya has launched his first novel,  dystopian techno-thriller in e-Book format entitled The Rise of Siri.  Having been the recipient of a late draft/early review copy, I can say Shlok on his first time out as a writer of sci-fi has crafted a genuine page turner.

Companion site to the book can be found here –  The Rise of Siri.com

Blending military-security action, politics, emerging tech and high-stakes business enterprise, the plot in The Rise of Siri moves at a rapid pace. I read the novel in two sittings and would have read it straight through in one except I began the book at close to midnight.  Set in a near-future America facing global economic meltdown and societal disintegration,  Apple led by CEO Tim Cook  and ex-operator Aaron Ridgeway, now head of  Apple Security Division, engages in a multi-leveled darwinian struggle of survival in the business, political and even paramilitary realms, racing against geopolitical crisis and market collapse , seeking corporate salvation but becoming in the process, a beacon of hope.

Vaidya’s writing style is sharp and spare and in The Rise of Siri he is blending in the real, the potential with the fictional. Public figures and emerging trends populate the novel; readers of this corner of the blogosphere will recognize themes and ideas that have been and are being debated by futurists and security specialists playing out in the Rise of Siri as Shlok delivers in an action packed format.

Strongly recommended and….fun!

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On Psychopaths and Society

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Earlier this year, milblogs had much discussion regardingtoxic leaders” – so-called “leaders” who in command epitomized a bullying, negative, destructive, egocentric, “boss from hell” that compromised missions, institutional values, morality and sometimes the law with their behaviors. This a phenomena plaguing more than just in the US military; a best-selling business book, The No Asshole Rule by Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton , even attempted to quantify the negative economic impact of psychopathic or antisocial personalities on their organizations and concluded the best strategy was to systematically not hire these people in the first place (Steve Jobs, incidentally, was identified by Sutton as the extremely rare asshole who created significantly more value for an organization than he destroyed in the damage he did to the people around him).

I came across an intriguing discussion of pyschopathology on TED that takes a number of surprising twists that puts “toxic” personalities in a different perspective than fixed categories.

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“Gamification”

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Embedding games in education and everyday life.

 

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The Era of the Creepy-State is Here

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

George Orwell was more right than he knew….

Congress passed a law – by unanimous consent in the Senate and by a suspension of rules in the House – to permit the Federal government to arbitrarily arrest and imprison for up to ten years members of the serf class (formerly known as “American citizens”) whose presence annoys or offends specally designated members of the elite and foreign dignitaries. A list that will no doubt expand greatly in future legislation to include very “special” private citizens.

Think about that, future “Joe the Plumbers” or Cindy Sheehans, before you ask an impertinent question of your betters or wave your handmade cardboard sign. Is ten seconds of glory on your local ABC affiliate news at 5 o’clock worth that felony arrest record and federally funded anal exam?

No? Then kindly shut your mouth, sir. Learn your place.

Two nebbish Representatives, one Republican and one Democrat, distinguished only by their lack of legislative or political importance, sponsored the bill on behalf of the big boys who fast-tracked it under the radar (they learned from the SOPA debacle). Forget ideology or boasts about carrying a copy of the Constitution in the breast pocket of their suit, whether you are in an archconservative Congressional district or an ultraliberal one, almost every member of Congress voted “aye” to trash multiple amendments in the Bill of Rights.

Almost every one.

This is an accelerating trend in recent years and in particular, a bipartisan theme of the 112th Congress, which views Constitutional rights of nobodies as an anachronistic hindrance to the interests (or convenience) of their powerful and wealthy political supporters. Our elected officials and their backers increasingly share an oligarchic class interest that in important matters, trumps the Kabuki partisanship of  FOXnews and MSNBC and inculcates a technocratic admiration for the “efficiency” of select police states.

It is from this demographic-cultural root of incestuous corruption that our creeping – and increasingly creepy – manifestations of authoritarianism in American life springs. The SOPA/PIPA internet censorship bills, naked scanners at airports, Stasi-like expansion of expensively wasteful TSA security theater, proposed 24/7 monitoring of  every American’s online activities, migration of police powers to unaccountable private firms, replacement of elected municipal governments with “emergency managers” (favoring financiers over taxpayers), Federal agencies monitoring political critics , the Department of Justice retro-legalizing corporate racketeering, fraud, perjury and conspiracy on a national scale, plus other infringements of liberty or gross corruption that I could list, ad nauseum.

We have reached the point where we as Americans need to stop, step back from moment by moment fixation on nonsensical, “white noise” fake political issues like “contraception” ginned up to keep the partisans distracted and become seriously involved in determining the direction in which our nation is headed. Our elite are telegraphing their strong preference for a “soft dictatorship” but we still have time to check their ambitions and rein in their looting.

It is almost quaint these days to pick up Friedrich von Hayek’s classic,  The Road to Serfdom and thumb through it. The libertarian antistatists of the 20th century were so focused on the clear and present dangers of totalitarianism that the idea of a weak state that endangered liberty through a mixture of corruption and regulatory capture eluded them. The Westphalian state at it’s apex was so overweening that the enemy of free societies, after foreign monsters like Hitler and Stalin, could be ambitious intellectual pygmies like Harold Laski or Tom Hayden. The state was so omnipotent that even it’s efforts at benevolence, to build a “Great Society” of the Welfare State were injurious to individual freedom because the expanse of statism crowded and weakened civil society , the market and private life. The argument gained political traction because, to varying degrees, it was true and looked prophetic when the Welfare-state began to crash economically in the 1970′s on stagflation.

Give the Welfare-state liberals and Social Democrats of the past their due though, their intentions by their own lights were benign. They wanted to make a safer, more secure, more equal, more just life through a more powerful state (whether that was a good idea or a realistic endeavor was the central political question between right and left). The current elite in comparison is so inferior in moral character and overconfident in their abilities that they may soon make us yearn for the former’s return.

What have now in our ruling class,  are the  builders of a Creepy-state and their intentions are not benign, except toward themselves, for as long as the looting of the American economy can last.

Unlike the Welfare-state, the Creepy-state, shot through with corruption, is  not omnipotent  because it is to be the servant and gendarme of the emerging oligarchy and not their master – but it is to be omniscient and omnipresent, constantly watching, monitoring, investigating, recording, interrogating, coercing, sorting, muzzling, gatekeeping and shearing the sheep on behalf of the shepherds.

Or the wolves.

The Creepy-state is not there to protect you or give you a higher standard of living or ensure justice or democracy, but to maintain a hierarchical public order from “disruption” (formerly known as “politics” or “democracy”). If the classical liberal ideal was the night watchman state, this state is the shadowy and ill-disposed watcher in the night.

The American political elite, Democrat and Republican, Conservative and Liberal, are in are largely in consensus that the government should, in regard to the American people:

Read your email
Listen to your phone calls
Track your movements on GPS
Track your online activity
Track your spending
Track your political activity
Read your medical records
Read your financial records
Scan your body
Scan your house
Scan your DNA
Keep you under video surveillance in public
Detain you at random in public places for security checks
Close off public spaces for private use
Seize private property for private use
Censor your speech
Block your access to judicial relief
Determine your educational and career path
Regulate your diet, place of residence, lifestyle and living standards (ever downwards)
Charge you with secret crimes for breaking secret regulations
Share or leak information about you at will

Is this the America we wish for our children or grandchildren? One that epitomizes the values of our Constitution or Declaration of Independence, or is it some kind of tawdry and shameful dime store fascism of a small Latin American country? Perhaps life is finally imitating fiction?

Fortunately, it is not too late. Irrevocable changes in the constitutional order have yet to be engineered. Our politicians are followers, not leaders here. They are a small and cowardly lot for the most part and will recoil in fear from this authoritarian ethos if a sufficiently large number of elected officials are thrown out of office at once. We can still roll this back – at least the most egregiously anti-American aspects – if we get sufficiently angry come November.

Self-interest is their only lodestone.

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