Posts tagged ‘environment’

tomorrowland welcomes the curious traveler

Tomorrow’s just another day, another way to spend my day
All by myself
Staring at the TV screen, flipping through my magazine
Everything is unclear
I need you here, doodoodoo
And I wake up, put on my makeup
Pick up the phone, nobody’s home
I need to break out, get me some takeout
Stand inside a crowd, I want to scream out loud
That I’ll be okay
I’ll be okay

Every year I review my clutter of saved articles, and inevitably encounter a really interesting piece that resonates with the current times. So it was at the end of this decade. Here is a piece from Richard Neville, a radical luminary from Australia. He wrote this before the turn of the century, about the mid-late 90’s. So, ten years on, let’s see how this reads today:

“Tomorrowland Welcomes the Curious Traveller – Richard Neville

Ideas on the Rise – Community, everything is connected, a corporate conscience, the worth of the wild, work as a spiritual journey.

Ideas in Decline – Nation states, treating the world as a quarry, technology is neutral, growth is good, work as a commodity to be traded.

  • The growth of genetics will lead to programs that enhance the physical and mental abilities of … the rich.
  • It is predicted that some people alive today will still be alive in 400 years; that’s a lot of shopping.
  • Breakthroughs in genetics mean we are starting to redesign our own species, blurring the ancient boundaries of our coming to life and the leaving of it. More and more of us could become composite beings – part biological, part mechanical, part electronic.  We will adjust our own brains to boost IQ, filter pain and intensify pleasure.  As a super-elite of cyborgs, some of us could end up ruling the world, or be rounded up and dismantled.
  • The fastest growing branch of medicine is plastic surgery.
  • digitized voice replication will convey a faultless reproduction of how we sound.  It will shatter our sense of identity and further disrupt the meaning of “authentic”.  Elvis sightings are a portent.  The King will return to the charts with new material, appear on MTV and promote whisky.

Now that history and fantasy can be blended with seamless conviction, where does it leave the concept of reality?”

Our lusty fling with social media, crowdsourcing and the wisdom of the masses appears to be still ascendant. As for the decline, technology is far from neutral, it is still delivering magical gadgetry and work has become an even more outsourced and traded commodity, partly thanks to technology and communications.

Reality is indeed becoming more virtual. So much so, that meeting someone for coffee, or calling them has been all but replaced with video-conferencing, Facebook, twitter and maybe soon ‘Wave’ing. Ad-dollars are following audiences online and chilling the spines of traditional, more tangible news sources. The noisy, slow, erratic, and wired dial-up internet has all but disappeared. Our Britannica, Compton’s, Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias have been shelved for Wikipedia. CDs, DVDs (and probably soon Blue-rays) are being replaced by digital downloads, one title at a time. Phone land-lines are being unplugged along with the modem as family plans give household members their own mobility. Film and film cameras have all but disappeared as digital SLRs, pocket-sized digital cameras and even phones are capturing memories instantly and cheaply. Yellow Pages and address books are being recycled while technology ”lets your fingers do the walking” from the printed page to the keyboard. Printed store catalogs morph to the spam of the past, as they move from your mailbox to your inbox. Fax machines are now a feature on multi-function printers and who’s business card still sports a fax number?  Cabling and wires fade from the edge of the network as wireless internet, wireless downloads, wireless charging, wireless headphones become the norm. Writing on paper has been replaced with e-messaging of all types – including this blog.

Perhaps Richard saw something we have missed in this last decade?

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

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January 7, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

computing utilities cometh

It’s quick. It’s clean. It’s pure.
It could change your life, rest assured.
It’s the 21st century cure,
And it’s my job to steal and rob GRAVES!

Computing and IT is entering a new phase. Think of it as the industrialization of information processing. The glory of having the fastest chip, or the fastest router, or the fastest drive, in fact any fastest computing component is quickly becoming Pyrrhic in nature. It’s all about the computing ecosystem.

Some call it cloud computing, others call it scalability – in fact it is something very different. It is the computing utility. Think of it this way…

When technology companies created systems or solutions, they were focused upon a very horizontal marketplace i.e. all things to the most people, or a vertical i.e. specialized systems for specific applications. But when you think beyond systems and focus on absolute efficiencies of the individual components, and then configure those components to interact as an eco-system, rather than just a system… well, it’s like designing communities instead of architecting houses. Heat, power, traffic, serviceability, security etc. all take on different meanings. It is more than just how powerful an individual component performs.

And so it is with the new data centers. Reliability is not about five 9’s – it is about 100% up-time. It demands new engineering approaches. It is about questioning everything – even down to whether an LED is essential on a device, whether the rack is designed for maximum airflow, whether the air-conditioning leverages real thermodynamic principles, whether power is properly conditioned, whether the cost per computing unit is the lowest and most economical so that your users can build viable business models.

These new data centers are not only providing the compute utilities of the future, they are inventing new technologies, IT components and processes. Most importantly, they eat their own dog-food instead of extolling the virtues of their design with clever marketing paradigms as do technology purveyors.  They are their own reference. They can provide real performance and reliability metrics, and many are making their approaches truly ‘open’ by showing you how to do it. This is a very disruptive trend, because if these companies start doing it themselves, because the traditional companies cannot solve these engineering problems, then they will become the technology companies of the future… much like power utilities. At some point, what will be the incentive to compete and innovate? For an even lower cost per compute cycle…?

Edison may have been a visionary, but it was Tesla that pioneered the concept of utility electricity. Edison wanted everyone to buy their own generator, and keep buying services, wiring and light bulbs… from Edison.

I think we’ve reached a new tipping point in IT.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

December 10, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

information density

Food, glorious food!
Eat right through the menu.
Just loosen your belt
Two inches and then you
Work up a new appetite.
In this interlude —
The food,
Once again, food
Fabulous food,
Glorious food.

Back in generational differences I wrote

“Even though I am not a fan of monkeying around with food, it did on average increase life expectancies from the baseline of old. So it is with information. Let us just hope that we’ll be smart enough to not allow information to become too fast, over processed and too preserved. Imagine suffering information obesity in the coming days!”

I was discussing early American History with a colleague and good friend of mine and we fast forwarded to the present-day political landscape. What struck us both was the parallel between fast food and availability of information. Perhaps its a glib and tenuous connection, but maybe there is something to this on a few different levels.

Nutritional Density in the context of information intersects quite readily with the current trend toward huge data-centers, their efficiency and management. If we were to parallel the increasing density of information that can be stored and processed in these facilities, there is an obvious parallel to the amount of nutrition produced per parcel of land and mono-cultures in general.  But are we talking nutritionally dense data, or energy dense data? As we look across the broad expanse of processing, it is easy to see that digital media, especially video, consumes vast amounts of storage. It is  visually rich to a consumer, but is the content itself valuable? In other words, we know it is energy dense, but is it nutritionally dense? Is the information we store and process in these data-centers useful for anything else other than to generate media revenues? How much actually feeds positively useful information for our society with factually relevant information? Or has it been processed, and subsequently prepared and packaged by a franchise for quick consumption? Has information really become a fast-food, ready for snacking with twitter or an on-the-go handheld? Has information crossed into entertainment along with the likes of toy laden packaged happy meals? Clearly discussions such as these counter the concept of a free-market information economy and tread dangerously closely to subjective evaluations and censorship. I am not advocating either. However, I do miss the days of relevant insightful journalism, slower yes, but based upon fact. The day that the newsroom became a profit center and not a cost center, was the day that media organizations started their downward spirals into irrelevancy and created opportunities for new technologies to fragment audiences and break the current business models. ‘Slow food’, what about a ‘slow information’ movement?

Information Overload, a term coined by Alvin Toffler refers to an excess amount of information being provided, which makes processing and absorbing tasks very difficult for the individual because sometimes we cannot see the validity behind the information. Consider this in the same context as willingly going to the buffet we call the internet, and loading ourselves with the excess calories of knowledge because it is available on an all you can consume basis. Have we willingly become gluttons of information? Just as food without exercise, have we stopped turning information into useful actionable knowledge?

Perhaps it was all best summarized in the following “As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes.” –Denis Diderot, “Encyclopédie” (1755)

The paradox of choice provides a good counterweight to the freedom of choice. As technology makes media more accessible, we have a responsibility to ensure that our energy and resources are not wasted on junk. Food or information alike. Working out how will be our greatest challenge.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

December 3, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

simplify and go back to paper

I won’t tell your secrets
Your secrets are safe with me
I will keep your secrets
Just think of me as the pages in your diary

Everyone has a Luddite moment. Be honest with yourself, even you.

How many business plans have been sketched out on a napkin? Have not some of the most powerful and personal presentations you’ve ever witnessed been done on a whiteboard?

Why is that?

With all of the rumors about a new mac iTablet, the releases of Kindles, new Nooks etc. one would naturally expect that we’ll all soon be sporting communications tablets that have all of our media, our documents, our communications in one simple form factor. As long as we keep them charged up, we’ll have access to our data. As long as we back them up, and keep those backups up-to-date, we’ll have access to that ever-growing personally duplicated library of stuff forever.

Yet somehow paper and pens do not seem to go away.

Surely everyone has an electronic diary? …and surely all our diaries talk to each other and help schedules our daily lives in perfect digital harmony and sync with our other devices and personal variables and variabilities?

PIC-0012How many of you still jot stuff down on good old-fashioned, environmentally unfriendly paper pulp? You know, the kind that uses less power and employs the most humanly evolved stream of consciousness indexing system? The kind that if stored reasonably well, will last hundreds of years without power, and will retain that memory as it was produced and laid-out by the original author cum publisher?

How many hard drives, flash drives, CDs and DVDs will last that long? How many software packages will last that long? And more importantly, how many will be compatible with future technologies? To be a little more specific, how many of you can still read your original WordStar documents? Or those original MSMail messages? Or…? My guess is that most has been tossed away (or lost) years ago. At some point we inevitably, intentionally or accidentally, de-clutter our lives. Much like an evolutionary process for information brought about by external environmental factors.

The digital archiving dilemma ensures that we’ll be forced to keep converting our ever-increasing digital content to constantly changing new technologies. Each iteration of such new technology will consume new resources and energy to be manufactured, but to also to convert bits to new formats, only to repeat the cycle again and again. Brings a whole new meaning to recycling doesn’t it? Meanwhile, paper and film still stay the same, in the same underground limestone vaults, stored without laying claim to increased resource utilization.

Are old analog formats less convenient? Usually, they take more time to handle and search. Are they less accessible? Generally. Are they more personal or authentic? Always. Are they more secure? Generally so, because it takes more work to copy millions until they’re digitized.

And the quality, generational loss etc… perhaps it’s not worth saving giving the resources it will waste over its lifetime?

I think I’ll start investigating the comparison of archival costs for documents on paper vs. electronic for say the next 250 years. No, I do not hope to live that long…! My guess is that paper (and its analog cohorts) will still win.

Oh, and by the way, I don’t need a touch tablet to draw and write freehand. Paper works for that too.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening!

November 19, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

The Rainforest Project

September 30, 2009 at 7:46 am Leave a comment


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