(art by Daniel Martin Diaz)
Earlier today, we published my story
"By His Things Will You Know Him," which is from the forthcoming Institute for the Future
anthology "An Aura of Familiarity: Visions from the Coming Age of Networked Matter
." I've read the story aloud for my podcast
, if that's how you prefer your fiction.
CBC radio's excellent magazine show As It Happens conducted a short, lovely interview
with Scottish sf writer Ken Macleod
about Iain Banks, who had been his friend since high school. It's a beautiful piece of audio, and a heartfelt one. My condolences, Ken.
This week, This American Life revisits the question of patents (a subject they did a very good job with in 2011), a move sparked by the attempt to shake down podcasters for patent royalties for a ridiculously overbroad patent from a company that went bust recording magazine articles to cassette and putting them in the mail. The new episode revisits the main stories raised in the earlier broadcast (don't worry, it stands alone), and does a remarkable job of making the case for substantive patent reform -- and pierces the veil on Intellectual Ventures, Nathan Myrvold's notorious patent-troll-that-insists-it-isn't-a-troll.
NPR reporter Laura Sydell and This American Life producer/Planet Money co-host Alex Blumberg tell the story of Intellectual Ventures, which is accused of being the largest of the patent trolls. Executives at Intellectual Ventures insist they are not trolls, but rather, promoters of innovation. They buy patents from struggling inventors, which encourages those inventors to go out and invent more stuff. Intellectual Ventures offers an example of such an inventor, a man named Chris Crawford. But when Laura and Alex try and talk to Chris Crawford, it leads them on a long search, culminating in a small town in Texas, where they find a hallway full of seemingly empty offices with no employees.
496: When Patents Attack...Part Two!
I gave the annual Sense About Science lecture
last week in London, and The Guardian recorded and podcasted it
). It's based on the Waffle Iron Connected to a Fax Machine
talk I gave at Re:publica in Berlin the week before.
In a fascinating installment of the IEEE Techwise podcast [MP3], Rice University Computational Engineering prof Moshe Vardi discusses the possibility that robots will obviate human labor faster than new jobs are created, leaving us with no jobs. This needn't be a bad thing -- it might mean finally realizing the age of leisure we've been promised since the first glimmers of the industrial revolution -- but if market economies can't figure out how to equitably distribute the fruits of automation, it might end up with an even bigger, even more hopeless underclass.
I think the issue of machine intelligence and jobs deserves some serious discussion. I don’t know that we will reach a definite conclusion, and it’s not clear how easy it will be to agree on desired actions, but I think the topic is important enough that it deserves discussion. And right now I would say it’s mostly being discussed by economists, by labor economists. It has to also be discussed by the people that produce the technology, because one of the questions we could ask is, you know, there is a concept that, for example, that people have started talking about, which is that we are using, we are creating technology that has no friction, okay? Creating many things that are just too easy to do.
Many of these ideas came up in this Boing Boing post from January, which also touches on Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, a book that Vardi mentions in his interview.
The Job Market of 2045
Slate's "Stranger Than Fiction" podcast has just aired its second episode
: a discussion between Tim Wu (a cyberlawyer, Internet scholar and good egg) and me (MP3
)! Future installments will include talks with Kim Stanley Robinson and Margaret Atwood (as well as others) -- the inaugural episode
featured Tim in discussion with Neal Stephenson.
Slate, the New America Foundation and Arizona State University have kicked off a new podcast called "Future Tense," hosted by Internet scholar Tim Wu. The inaugural episode is an interview with Neal Stephenson wherein Neal and Tim talk about where the future has gone -- why we no longer seem to dream of jetpacks and instead focus on fiddly mobile phones. Stephenson gets some very good points in on the lack of predictivity in science fiction, and what sf really contributes to the future.
There are six installments in all -- coming episodes include conversations with Margaret Atwood and me!
Stranger Than Fiction, Neal Stephenson Edition
(Image: Neal Stephenson Answers Questions, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from jmpk's photostream)
Thomas Gideon, host of the Command Line podcast
and technical director of the Open Technology Institute at New America Foundation gave a great speech at the Northeast Linux Fest. His talk, which is outlined in detail here
, was about getting free software geeks involved in political activism, and was a thoughtful explanation of the differences between the way free software stuff gets done and the way that Congress gets stuff done. (MP3
Jeff Baham from HauntedMansion.com sez, "March 30 marked the centennial of the birth of Marc Davis, one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men" who was responsible for both the creation of some of Disney's iconic characters (Tinker Bell, Maleficent) and iconic theme park attractions (Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion). The Mousetalgia podcast is noting the life and work of Davis with a special episode dedicated to his career, including a never-published interview with Davis himself and a recent conversation with his widow and fellow Disney Imagineer, Alice Davis. Of special note are Marc and Alice's recollections about Marc joining the Disney Studio in the '20s, where he worked on Snow White."
Mousetalgia Episode 230: Remembering Marc Davis with Alice Davis
In Tribes, this week's This American Life podcast, a woman with "Autonomous sensory meridian response" describes her curious neurological condition. When she hears boring, whispering voices, she experiences pleasurable, relaxing "brain shivers" that are so nice, she finds herself watching the Home Shopping Network for hours (and hours!) at a time. There's a whole YouTube subculture of ASMR videos in which (mostly) women whisper quietly as they narrate their jewelry condition, or role-play giving you a shave.
There's not much science on ASMR (yet), but a Sheffield university prof doesn't discount the possibility that it is real.
ASMR subculture feels like something out of a very good recent William Gibson novel, and it's apparently real.
Sodajerker, a British podcast devoted to songwriting, produced a great one-hour episode with Disney songwriting legend Richard M Sherman, half of the Sherman Brothers team that gave us everything from "It's a Small World" to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (and lots more). Hearing Sherman talk about his work is fascinating.
As one half of The Sherman Brothers, along with his late brother Robert, Richard M. Sherman is responsible for co-writing the most memorable Disney songs of all time. From the Academy Award winning compositions for Mary Poppins such as ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’, ‘Feed the Birds’, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, ‘Jolly Holiday’, ‘I Love to Laugh’ and ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’, to other landmark Disney works such as The Parent Trap, ‘It’s a Small World (After All)’, ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ (The Jungle Book), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Aristocats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Winnie the Pooh, the Sherman Brothers have enchanted people of all ages for half a century. In this hour of conversation, Richard M. Sherman joins Simon and Brian to talk through the writing of many of these classics in his own inimitable style.
Episode 38 – Richard M. Sherman
(Image: "it's a small world" holiday, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from harshlight's photostream)
Here's a bit of audio of Frank Zappa reading some of the dirty parts of William S Burroughs's Naked Lunch, taken from a rare double LP called "The Nova Convention."
The occasion of this reading was the Nova Convention in 1978, three days and nights of readings, panel discussions, film screenings, and performances that, The New York Times wrote at the time, “sought to grapple with some of the implications of the writing” of Burroughs. In addition to Burroughs and Zappa, the convention featured such notable countercultural names as Terry Southern, Patti Smith, Philip Glass, Brion Gysin, John Cage, Timothy Leary, and Robert Anton Wilson. A good bit of the happening (including the audio above) was recorded for posterity and released as a double-LP by Giorno Poetry Systems.
Frank Zappa Reads NSFW Passage From William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (1978)
In Bruce Sterling's barn-burning closing keynote for SXSW 2013, he confronts the realities of disruption -- that disruption leads to destruction. Our wonderful things destroy other wonderful things. The future composts the past. We roast the 20th century over our bonfire, let's not shamefully pretend that we did it by accident. Let's eat our kill.
Bruce Sterling closing remarks at SXSW2013
Thomas "Command Line" Gideon came out for the DC stop on my Homeland tour, at Busboys and Poets, and mic'ed me up for the event. He's mastered the audio and posted it. It's a 40 minute talk about the promise of technology to improve our lives, the risks from allowing technology to be used to surveil and control us, and the contributions Aaron Swartz made to this cause and to the book. There's also about 20 minutes of Q&A.
TCLP 2013-03-13 Cory Doctorow on the Themes of “Homeland”
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