"steven johnson"

5 bizarre board games you should try playing just once


This could be you.

Lots of board games from the 20th century just plain suck. Monopoly and Risk are positive-feedback games where the first person to gain a slight advantage inevitably becomes the runaway winner a couple of tedious hours later. In Candy Land the winner is determined when the deck is shuffled – players make no decisions (other than the wise one of burning the game and burying the ashes in salted earth). And calling out random numbers in an attempt to score a hit in Battleship is, as Steven Johnson points out, "about as mentally challenging as playing Bingo."

The board games below all suffer from similar problems plaguing the ones above. But they also have one or more additional qualities -- an inane theme, offensiveness, bad illustrations, unintentionally funny cover lines, or an ineffable WTFness -- that make them worthy of note, or at least mockery. Let the fun begin!

1. Pie Face (1968) "click... click... click... Whoops!..." Dad and son seem inordinately determined to make a mess on mom and daughter's faces in this uncomfortable cover photo.

2. Gomer Pyle Game (1964) Transogram, makers of this execrable TV show tie-in game, should have called it quits with its most famous game, Tiddledy Winks, which at least required skill to win. According to Charlie Claywell, "the game is played by rolling the dice and each player tries to finish first so they can salute Sergeant Carter."

3. Ice Cube (1972). This sadistic game undoubtedly inspired many a young sociopath to pursue a career in the CIA or Chicago Police Department. Read the rest

The Ecstasist: A Conversation with the Novelist Jonathan Lethem

Defender, to the death, of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World saga. Architect of Philip K. Dick’s induction into the Library of America. College drop-out. MacArthur Genius. Comic-book guy. Jonathan Lethem is a man of obscure obsessions and unabashed passions.

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

Steven Johnson blends the history of science with keen social observation to tell the story of how our modern world came about—and where it's headed. Cory Doctorow reviews How We Got to Now, also a six-part PBS/BBC series, which ties together a lifetime of work

Great ideas that changed the world, and the people they rode in on

To inaugurate the publication of his brilliant new book How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World (also a PBS/BBC TV series), Steven Johnson has written about the difficult balance between reporting on the history of world-changing ideas and the inventors credited with their creation Read the rest

Steven Johnson: the flashbulb and urban poverty

Over at Medium, Steven Johnson, author of How We Got To Now, writes about how the 19th century invention of flash photography shined a light on poverty.

"Flash Forward: How We Got To Know" Read the rest

Trailer for Steven Johnson's new PBS series, "How We Got to Now"

Steven Johnson -- a real favorite around here! -- has a new six-part PBS show coming this October called How We Got to Now, along with companion book. The trailer (above) gives a tantalizing hint of how great this show will be, as does the excerpt from the first episode that's also available. (Thanks, Steven!) Read the rest

Future Perfect: an optimistic look at the future of networked politics

In Steven Johnson's latest, Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age, he proposes that people who believe in the Internet are not techno-utopians, but rather "peer progressives" -- people who believe that progress is possible when peers work together through non-hierarchical, networked systems.

Jeff Koons claims to own all balloon dogs

Lawyers representing Jeff Koons, the pop artist known for remixing common objects and other peoples' art, have demanded that San Francisco's Park Life stop selling book-ends that look like balloon dogs. Koons's lawyers argue that since Koons once produced a set of iconic statues of balloon dogs, all representations of balloon dogs are henceforth Koons's exclusive purview, and anyone who makes or sells a balloon dog infringes on Koons's copyright.

I always say that every pirate wishes he was an admiral, but it's not often that you get as clear an example as this: having built a career on the flexibilities in copyright law that allow artists to make transformative use of the works around them, Koons now wishes to terminate those flexibilities and award himself exclusive rights over all the works he's made, and the works that inspired them.

This is a textbook case of why artists who argue against copyright flexibilities should be viewed with great skepticism; like the established fashion designers who say that it's unfair that clothing patterns don't qualify for copyright (and never mind the fact that all these designers benefited enormously from the right to copy popular designs when they were starting out), Koons believes that copyright flexibilities should only apply to him, and not to the artists who come after him.

lawyers of american artist jeff koons issued a cease-and-desist letter to park life, a small san francisco store and gallery, asking them to stop selling and advertising their balloon dog bookends.

can koons own something that existed before him?

Read the rest

2010 Gift Guide: BOOKS!

Welcome to the second half of the 2010 Boing Boing Gift Guide, where we pick out some of our favorite books from the last year (and beyond) to help you find inexpensive holiday gifts for friends and family. Can you guess who chose a Sarah Palin book?

Kevin Kelly talks "What Technology Wants"

This week, Rick Kleffel, one of my favorite book interviewers, talks to Kevin Kelly about his book What Technology Wants, one of the best books I've ever read about technology. The conversation is fascinating.

11-09-10: A 2010 Interview with Kevin Kelly

MP3 link

(Thanks, Rick, via Submitterator!) Kevin Kelly's WHAT TECHNOLOGY WANTS: how technology changes us and ... What Technology Wants Kevin Kelly and Steven Johnson in conversation Read the rest

Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From: multidisciplinary hymn to diversity, openness and creativity

Science writer Steven Johnson's latest book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation is, in some ways, a classic Johnson book: drawing from diverse sources across many disciplines, Johnson recounts historical scientific breakthroughs and draws from them parallels to modern technology, particularly networked computers and the way that they shape the societies around them.

But in another way, this is a very different kind of Johnson book. Unlike recent science histories like The Invention of Air or The Ghost Map, Johnson doesn't limit himself to a deep, biographical account of a single invention. Rather, Good Ideas is a sweeping survey of many, many inventions, some dating back to antiquity, and a comparison of these innovations to the innovations that occur on the grand scale -- in the natural evolution of new species and ecosystems -- and on the micro-scale -- the way that neuronal clusters alternate between synchronized, orderly firing and wild chaos to birth new ideas.

This is the heart of Johnson's thesis: that there are similarities to be found (and lessons to be learned) between the way that physics, chemistry and biology innovate to create successful variations in life; the way that humans work together to create successful new technologies; and the way that human brains accomplish the strange business of imagining new things, seemingly out of thin air.

For Johnson, the secret lies in the "thin air" -- the unplumbed space we credit for the "sparks of brilliance" and "happy accidents" that create new connections, strategies and thoughts. Read the rest

Kevin Kelly and Steven Johnson in conversation

Steven Johnson and Kevin Kelly both have provocative new books out. Steven's is Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation while Kevin's is titled "What Technology Wants." Wired sat them both down for a conversation. The way these two think, talk, and riff, I'm glad I wasn't the one responsible for editing that chat down into a couple of pages of readable text. From Wired:
In Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, Johnson draws on seven centuries of scientific and technological progress, from Gutenberg to GPS, to show what sorts of environments nurture ingenuity. He finds that great creative milieus, whether MIT or Los Alamos, New York City or the World Wide Web, are like coral reefs–teeming, diverse colonies of creators who interact with and influence one another.

Seven centuries are an eyeblink in the scope of Kelly’s book, What Technology Wants, which looks back over some 50,000 years of history and peers nearly that far into the future. His argument is similarly sweeping: Technology, Kelly believes, can be seen as a sort of autonomous life-form, with intrinsic goals toward which it gropes over the course of its long development. Those goals, he says, are much like the tendencies of biological life, which over time diversifies, specializes, and (eventually) becomes more sentient...

Kelly: It’s amazing that the myth of the lone genius has persisted for so long, since simultaneous invention has always been the norm, not the exception. Anthropologists have shown that the same inventions tended to crop up in prehistory at roughly similar times, in roughly the same order, among cultures on different continents that couldn’t possibly have contacted one another.

Read the rest

Where Good Ideas Come From, 4 minute version

Here's a short video promo for Steven Johnson's upcoming Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, a lecture on the way that transformative ideas incubate for long times, come out of left field, and thrive best when there's no one foreclosing on them because they're too weird or disruptive. It's inspiring stuff, and a real indictment of proprietary and closed systems that put blocks and hurdles in the way of creators in the name of "good user experience" or legal compliance.

WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM by Steven Johnson (via Kottke) DIY: How to write a book Steven Johnson on Colbert How Lost bends the rules Steven Johnson on Colbert Steven Johnson's TED talk about spreading of epidemics Steven Johnson on eBooks Read the rest

From Odessa to the Future

Guestblogger Marina Gorbis is executive director at Institute for the Future. At the end of workshops at the Institute for the Future we often ask participants to sum up their experience in one word or one sentence. Applying the technique to myself, I would sum up my whole life in one phrase: From Odessa to the Future. Right around my 50th birthday I found myself in a position of Executive Director of IFTF, a venerable 40-year old think tank in Palo Alto, California. An honor, for sure, but an honor that for me meant many hours of reflecting on an amazing arc one's life can take, an arc that in my case started in a three room (not three bedroom, three room) apartment I shared with my mother, sister, and grandparents on a street named after a radical and obscure left-wing German politician and historian Franz Mehring in a city most famous for its steps forever immortalized in Sergey Eisenstein's movie Battleship Potemkin. This arc has brought me to the heart of Silicon Valley and to the most unlikely of occupations--a futurist. Although in a funny way, my past may have given me the best training for a futurist, at least the kind of futurism we practice at IFTF. It taught me on a visceral level a lesson that we always try to impart on others: no one can predict the future. If you asked me or anyone around me 35 years ago what would I be, the most likely answer would've been an "engineer." A good bet since most educated Russian Jews are engineers, many of them here in Silicon Valley. Read the rest

Video games good for the brain?

Scientific American surveys new research on whether playing videogames might be good for our brains. For example, one recent study by University of Rochester cognitive scientist Daphne Bavelier that I've blogged about previously suggests that games can exercise and enhance certain core vision functions. From SciAm:
It is appealing to envision video games being utilized in the rehabilitation of patients and the prevention of cognitive decline, promotion of brain fitness, and development of fundamental skills. However, more careful studies like those of Bavelier and colleagues are needed to realize such a goal. To date, much of the claims around this rapidly growing area of technology-supported medical interventions are insufficiently supported by scientific data. In this context, a major advantage of video games is the fact that they can be made entertaining and engaging. Motivation is a powerful driver of brain plasticity. The highly realistic and engaging nature of these games allows the gamer to immerse themselves and “feel” like the simulation is really real (e.g. the intensity of combat). Such realistic engagement and the resulting enjoyment promotes brain changes. Of course, a video game is not the same as the real thing. The motor plan to throw a football accurately (e.g. grip strength, depth perception, tracking the running receiver) versus the right sequences of touches on a game console are two different things. The development of systems that more realistically simulate motor actions and responses will probably be important. It is likely that the functional impact of the brain plasticity induced by greater technology dependence will be different for different behaviors.
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