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Posts from the ‘welcome to the future’ Category

Save the Internet Fundraising Drive

Yes I’m surviving TIFF ’08, thanks for asking. It’s been a great year, but I’m very much looking forward to getting to the weekend and sleeping for several days. More recap later.

I just got a brief e-mail from Timothy Karr, the campaing director of the (excellent) that they are looking to raise $25,000 today to help them fight Comcast’s appeal of the FCC’s precedent-setting August ruling against Comcast’s network throttling practises.

I’ve written before why network neutrality is so important, especially why I believe that conceptualizing the internet like a utility, not a content channel is fundamentally key for consumers and producers of digital content. has been one of the most vocal supporters in fighting some very deep pockets in the US to promote the concept of network neutrality – and given the influence that US policy tends to have globally, I strongly encourage everyone to help support them and spread awareness of their fight.

[ Edit – Some generous soul has also set up a $300,000 fund to match any donations made today – so if you were on the fence about putting your money where your mouth is… now’s your chance to double your impact! ]

Full e-mail after the jump.
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Do Engineers Dream of 0wnz0red sheep?

I’m a long time proponent of so-called hard science-fiction. While I generally enjoy fiction in all it’s forms, there is something uniquely interesting, and often eye-opening, about those well versed in esoteric (sometimes impenetrable) subsets of the science community trying to extrapolate the cutting-edge developments of their fields into ethical, moral, or straight-adventure tales.

It’s telling that one of two physical pulp-and-paper magazines I still subscribe to is the venerable Analog. While Wikipedia may be right that it can be “a bit puritanical”, I have never picked up an issue that didn’t contain at least one story or science article that made me reconsider a pre-conceived notion about the universe we live in, or our place in it.

George Dyson’s “Engineer’s Dreams” is a great story, but also a great example of this unique blend of fiction (and also how hard it is to find a venue to publish such works). It blends the history of computer sciences, approaches to computer logic, and examination of Google network topography to construct a fictional tale about man’s ever shifting view of what a “computer” is. It actually just occured to me that it’s an interesting counterpoint to Cory Doctrow’s “0wnz0red” (a 2003 Nebula finalist) in that “0wnz0red” examines what application of computer logic could do to alter our concept of “human” and “Engineer’s Dreams” is the inverse.

Both are excellent stories that raise interesting questions. So you should go read them.

Dear Robot Developers: Why Do You Want Your Creations to Kill Us All?

I was talking to someone the other day about a documentary from HotDocs called “Mechanical Love“. One of the themes the film touches on is how Japan has an official initiative of Robot integration to replace their rapidly ageing population (by 2055, over 40% of the population will be older than 65).

One of the engineers in the film (I think working on a guide robot for shopping malls) talked about how difficult it is to program certain basic empathic processes, such as recognizing that someone is disoriented or separated from their group, and in need of assistance.

While I’m no robophobe (heck one of my best friends growing up was Robo-Canadian) may I kindly suggest to engineers worldwide that programming robots which can recognize when someone is disoriented or separated from their group is a terrible idea. Because while you’re doing that, these guys are making terrifying all-terain quadrepeds (seriously check out the point in the video where ice, piles of rubble, and kicking the thing over don’t even slow it down)… and these guys are perfecting terrifying teddy-bear heads, and using people as human sheilds, and we know they’ve already mastered speaking to us in a soothing manner while planning to kill us all.

What I’m really getting at here is you think they don’t all talk to each other and pool their new abilities?. I have seen the future and it is not one I’m entirely comfortable with:

Rise of the pop-culture tribes

A weird combination of Chris Sims awarding winning comic-blog-stylings and an interesting interview on Jazz FM got me thinking about the concept of tribalisim today, and how the future may be ruled by distinct groups with unique languages, customs, and idioms – based on how much they loved “Alf”.

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