(Photograph by Kevin Steele.) Alexander Rose of The Long Now Foundation says, "Long Now is holding an event I thought the Boing Boing crowd might enjoy: The Funeral for Analog TV with Bruce Sterling and Paul Saffo. The service will take place at the Berkeley Art Museum, Tuesday, February 17, at 7:00 PM." The website for this event explains, "In a soap-operatic melodrama fit for TV itself, Congress has debated changing the official date for the switch to digital television; however our event will proceed on Feb. 17 because we prefer to bury a fresh corpse rather than wait for the walking dead to fall over."
Americans enter the New Year in a strange new role: financial lunatics. We’ve been viewed by the wider world with mistrust and suspicion on other matters, but on the subject of money even our harshest critics have been inclined to believe that we knew what we were doing. They watched our investment bankers and emulated them: for a long time now half the planet’s college graduates seemed to want nothing more out of life than a job on Wall Street.The End of the Financial World As We Know It (NYT). When you're done with that, don't miss the companion piece in the same NYT edition, How to Repair a Broken Financial World, which is another must-read, clocking in at 2,000 words. And when you're done with all that, go watch "Keeping up with the Kardashians" or "Dog The Bounty Hunter" and eat some Hot Pockets, because AFAIAC, you'll have paid your thinkin' dues for the week.
This is one reason the collapse of our financial system has inspired not merely a national but a global crisis of confidence. Good God, the world seems to be saying, if they don’t know what they are doing with money, who does?
Incredibly, intelligent people the world over remain willing to lend us money and even listen to our advice; they appear not to have realized the full extent of our madness. We have at least a brief chance to cure ourselves. But first we need to ask: of what?
To that end consider the strange story of Harry Markopolos. Mr. Markopolos is the former investment officer with Rampart Investment Management in Boston who, for nine years, tried to explain to the Securities and Exchange Commission that Bernard L. Madoff couldn’t be anything other than a fraud. Mr. Madoff’s investment performance, given his stated strategy, was not merely improbable but mathematically impossible. And so, Mr. Markopolos reasoned, Bernard Madoff must be doing something other than what he said he was doing.
About the writers: "Michael Lewis, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the author of Liar’s Poker, is writing a book about the collapse of Wall Street. David Einhorn is the president of Greenlight Capital, a hedge fund, and the author of Fooling Some of the People All of the Time."
Boing Boing partner and Federated Media founder John Battelle publishes a list of predictions every new year -- and at the end of that year (like, as in now) he revisits them, to see how he did. In short, he was pretty spot-on for 2008. His year-in-review posts are fascinating and insightful, and he's frank about even the parts that missed the mark. Snip:
Reading over my predictions for 2008, I was struck with one thing: It wasn't a list. It was more of a narrative, making decoding how I did that much more difficult. After the narrative, I focused on the biggies - Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, and Newscorp/FIM. I'll have to keep that in mind when I post my predictions for 2009 on Jan 1 next year.Excerpts from a few of the company-specific predictions, reviewed:
1. 2008 will be the year Wall Street gets frustrated with Google. Sometimes, a picture says it best [ Image above, at top of post - XJ ]. It's clear the bloom came off the Google Wall St. rose in 2008.
Predictions 08: How Did I Do? (Battellemedia)
2. Google will continue to struggle with its display advertising business, at least as it is traditionally understood, in part due to a culture conflict between its engineering-based roots and the thousands of media-saavy sales and marketing folks the company has hired in the past two years
I think this clearly occurred (note Armstrong's acknowledgement of this issue here, Comscore noted that Google had just 1.5% of the display market by June), but with the appointment of David Rosenblatt as President, Display, I expect the conflict to be resolved, at least temporarily. I do not believe, however, that this issue is anywhere near off the table. To do display right, you have to act like a publisher.
1. Yahoo, meanwhile, will spend most of 2008 trying to figure out what to do with what it bought in 2007, and attempting to articulate a strategy that is anything but "we have 500 million users, so we must be important." By mid year, it will have succeeded.
Well, I was right about the first part, and very, very wrong about the second. I guess I was just too optimistic that Yahoo would get its shit together by mid year. Both the bear hug that was the lost Microsoft deal, and then the goat rodeo that was the lost Google deal, killed any clarity at Yahoo. But I do believe there is a comeback story to be written there. It just won't be Jerry writing it.
Ed. Note: The following is Boing Boing guestblogger Clay Shirky's first post. Clay's traveling today, so I'm posting this one on his behalf. Image above: "Don't believe the Devil, don't beLIEve his book," a CC-licensed photo by Celeste, a Flickr user in Buenos Aires - Argentina. --XJ
Every now and again, there is an essay that is so well written, so cleanly expressed, and so spectacularly wrong that it clarifies something you previously understood only dimly. James Gleick's recent advice to the publishing industry, How to Publish Without Perishing, was that for me.
Gleick's thesis is that publishers are people who sell objects, and he means this not just as a description of their past, but as strategy for their future as well. He makes much of the book as a thing, noting that we talk about "book lovers", but never "CD lovers", he writes of books in terms of possessing them, and his advice to publishers is to cede speed, relevance, and even popularity to digital businesses, and to shift publishing into reverse:
Go back to an old-fashioned idea: that a book, printed in ink on durable paper, acid-free for longevity, is a thing of beauty. Make it as well as you can. People want to cherish it.
This proposed Ye Olde-ing the industry makes the choices faced by publishers suddenly seem more urgent.
There are book lovers, yes, but there are also readers, a much larger group. By Gleick's logic, all of us who are just readers, everyone who buys paperbacks or trades books after we've read them, everyone who prints PDFs or owns a Kindle, falls out of his imagined future market. Publishers should forsake mere readers, and become purveyors of Commemorative Text Objects. It's the Franklin Mint business model, now with 1000% more words!
In the same way the internet has forced newspapers into a 'news vs. paper' moment, the publishing world is in a 'readers vs. book lovers' moment. In this environment, the single most important choice anyone in publishing has to make is this: "How many generations do I want to be in business?" Because hawking Ye Olde Codices to aging connoisseurs is a one-generation business.
Businesses don't survive in the long term because old people persist in old behaviors; they survive because young people renew old behaviors, and all the behaviors young people are renewing cluster around reading, while they are adopting almost none of the behaviors tied to cherishing physical containers, whether for the written word or anything else. Can you imagine a 25-year-old telling a publisher "To get my business, you should stick to a single, analog format? Oh, and could you make it heavy, bulky, and unsearchable? Thanks."
From Aldus Manutius until recently, book lovers have been the most passionate readers. Now they are mostly just the oldest readers. Thanks to digital data, there is a fateful choice to be made between serving lovers of the text and lovers of the page; I think even Manutius would have sided with the readers over the collectors. I hope today's publishers do as well.
Clay Shirky Boing Boing Guestblog posts:
Snip from a Salon opinion piece by Michael Lind, which argues that Obama's victory marks "the beginning of a new era in American history," and that such eras are sparked by technological change.
[W]hat causes these cycles of reform and backlash in American politics? I believe they are linked indirectly to stages of technological and economic development. Lincoln's Second American Republic marked a transition from an agrarian economy to one based on the technologies of the first industrial revolution -- coal-fired steam engines and railroads. Roosevelt's Third American Republic was built with the tools of the second industrial revolution -- electricity and internal combustion engines. It remains to be seen what energy sources -- nuclear? Solar? Clean coal? -- and what technologies -- nanotechnology? Photonics? Biotech-- will be the basis of the next American economy. (Note: I'm talking about the material, real-world manufacturing and utility economy, not the illusory "information economy" beloved of globalization enthusiasts in the 1990s, who pretended that deindustrialization by outsourcing was a higher state of industrialism.)Obama and the dawn of the Fourth Republic (Salon)
Naturally, the Americans alive during the founding of new American republics have other issues on their minds. The Civil War was fought over slavery, not steam engines, and the New Deal, for all of FDR's commitment to nationwide electrical power fed by hydroelectric dam projects, was animated by a vision of social justice. The broad outlines of technological and economic change merely provide the frame for the picture; the details depend on the groups that emerge victorious in political battles.
That is why it is too early to predict the outline of the Fourth American Republic. Its shape depends on the outcomes of the debates and struggles of the next generation. But it is possible to speculate about its life span. If the pattern of history holds, the Fourth Republic of the United States will last for roughly 72 years, from 2004 (or, if you like, 2008) to 2076. And if the pattern of the past holds, we will see a period of Hamiltonian centralization and reform between now and 2040, followed by an approximately 36-year long Jeffersonian backlash motivated by ideals of libertarianism and decentralization.
NASA confirms, beyond any earthly doubt, that water really really really does exist on Mars.
Laboratory tests aboard NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander have identified water in a soil sample. The lander's robotic arm delivered the sample Wednesday to an instrument that identifies vapors produced by the heating of samples.NASA Spacecraft Confirms Martian Water, Mission Extended (nasa.gov).
"We have water," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. "We've seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted."
Today was an amazing day out at Mojave Spaceport.
Burt Rutan, Sir Richard Branson, and a bevy of space celebs (including Dr. Buzz Aldrin) gathered for the launch of Virgin Galactic's twin-hulled mothership, "Eve," named after Sir Richard's own mom -- who formally christened WhiteKnightTwo with the pop of a champagne bottle. Branson explained that the spaceliner was also named "Eve" because she was conceived as an historic first for humankind.
The Boing Boing tv crew was there, and we'll be airing video hijinks later this week.
Here is coverage from other blog-pals we ran into out there:
Chris Borroni-Bird is the director of Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts at GM. He's leading the effort at GM to make fuel cell vehicles, based on a "skateboard" style chassis called AUTOnomy that incorporates the fuel cell, motors and electronics control.
GMnext kindly invited me to visit with Dr. Borroni-Bird and have a discussion with him about "innovation, technology, energy, the environment, and their impact on the future of the automobile." He's a fascinating innovator with ideas that could change transportation around the world. I hope he succeeds.
Here are more videos from our conversation. (Note: GMnext compensated me for my video appearance.) Link Chris Borroni-Bird and Mark Frauenfelder in conversation (GM Next)
All extropic systems -- economy, nature and technology -- are governed by self-accelerating feedback cycles. Like compounding interest, or virtuous circles, they are powered by increasing returns. Success breeds success. There is a long tail of incremental build up and then as they keep doubling every cycle, they explode out of invisibility into significance. Extropic systems can also collapse in the same self-accelerating way, one subtraction triggering many other subtractions, so in a vicious cycle the whole system implodes. Our view of the future is warped and blinded by these exponential curves.Where the Linear Crosses the Exponential [Kevin Kelly]
But while progress runs on exponential curves, our individual lives proceed in a linear fashion. We live day by day by day. While we might think time flies as we age, it really trickles out steadily. Today will always be more valuable than some day in the future, in large part because we have no guarantee we'll get that extra day. Ditto for civilizations. In linear time, the future is a loss. But because human minds and societies can improve things over time, and compound that improvement in virtuous circles, the future in this dimension is a gain. Therefore long-term thinking entails the confluence of the linear and the exponential. The linear march of our time intersects the cascading rise and fall of numerous self-amplifying exponential forces. Generations, too, proceed in a linear sequence. They advance steadily one after another while pushed by the compounding cycles of exponential change.
Balancing that point where the linear crosses the exponential is what long-term thinking should be about.
Presenter: Brain Cox works on the Large Hadron Collider that's about to become operational at CERN.
Aim of particle physics is to find out what everything is made of. As you get back to the early times of the universe, things were simpler. In the 1st billionth of a second it was very simple. Everything was made from 12 particles of matter stuck together by four forces. "All science is either physics or stamp collecting." - Ernest Rutherford
Large Hadron collider is 27 Km in circumference and will accelerates protons to 99.99999% the speed of light (I might not have gotten the right number of 9s, sorry if this spoils your calculations if you are trying this at home). These will collide with another beam of protons going in the opposite direction.
Higgs gives mass to fundamental particles. Particles are massive because they are surrounded by Higgs particles. (Maggie Thatcher shown here surround by a Higgs field). The LHC will hopefully verify the existence of Higgs particles. If not, it'll find whatever is responsible for giving mass to stuff.
What particle physics means to me: gives modern science a creation story. We know universe beAgn 13.7 billion years ago as a dot smaller than an atom. Universe underwent exponential expansion in a billionth of a second and continues to expand. AFter 400 million years, the first stars formed and other elements were cooked in them. On some planets oxygen and hydrogen formed into water, liquid water on some planets. On at least one planet, life formed.
Here at TED, I met a man named Steve Varon. He's a warm and gregarious man who runs a successful children's underwear company on the East Coast. For the last year or so, he's been working very hard to make his dream possible: to see the Dalai Lama carry the torch in the Chinese Olympics. He made a short video about it, which he submitted to Pangea Day, but you can see it now on YouTube. I wish him luck in his quest.
About the 2008 TEDPrizeLink
The TED Prize was created as a way of taking the inspiration, ideas and resources generated at TED and using them to make a difference. Winners receive a prize of $100,000 each, and more importantly, a wish. A wish to change the world.
During today's session, webcast live from Monterey, California, the 2008 TEDPrize winners will unveil their wishes for the first time. Prize winners Neil Turok, Dave Eggars and Karen Armstong will be joined by singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela.
Irwin Redlener, MD is president of the Children's Health Fund spoke about how much loose nuclear material there is in the world, and how easy it is to make a suitcase nuke. Nuclear terrorism is probable, but survivable, he says. I missed most of his talk while typing up the last one (I'm sure Ethan Zuckerman will have a nice report on the talk). Here's a slide Redlener prepared on how to survive a nuclear attack.
When I opened up this month's National Geographic I was filled with amazement and a bit of envy. World class technical photographer, Peter Ginter, shot these really outstanding shots of CERN. His technique is unmatched.Link.
Link (Thanks, Grey!)
Lyons and Dubai had already signed a "pact of cooperation and friendship" but al-Gandhi's idea adds a new twist to twinning: the new Lyons will cover an area of about 700 acres, roughly the size of the Latin Quarter of Paris, and will contain squares, restaurants, cafes and museums.
Al-Gandhi could have picked a worse place. Famed as the home of gastronomy and the birthplace of cinema, Lyons sits between two of France's best-known wine-growing regions. Even so, Dubai is unlikely to want to copy the decrepit tower blocks that ring the real city, symbols of the urban violence that periodically plagues France. Nor is the country's recent smoking ban in public places expected to be exported.
The desert city will include a Paul Bocuse Institute, like the one in Lyons named after the hallowed chef, in which students will study hotel management and gastronomy.
(Image: Old Lyon, a Creative Commons Attribution licensed photo from Will Palmer's Flickr stream)
“The ship wasn't really visible and was totally silent, but the lights spanned about a mile long and a half mile wide,” [pilot Steve] Allen said. “The lights went from corner to corner. It was directly above Highway 67 traveling towards Stephenville at a high rate of speed - about 3,000 miles per hour is what I would estimate.”
Allen said the lights were not those of a normal aircraft. He said they were more like strobe lights, and while they were all watching, the lights reconfigured themselves from a single horizontal line into two sets of vertical lights.
They also said they saw two military jets ("possibly F16s") chasing after the ship. Link