The word “essay” comes from the French verb “essayer” which means “to try”. An essay, in the original sense, is something you write to try to figure something out.
- Paul Graham Hackers and Painters
The word “essay” comes from the French verb “essayer” which means “to try”. An essay, in the original sense, is something you write to try to figure something out.
Elon Musk wrote this earlier this week after mentioning Nick Bostrom’s new book.
Hope we're not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 3, 2014
Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk)
I’ve often wondered the same thing, but never summed it up so cleverly. Now I am really excited to read Superintelligence.
I’m not sure if Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweet today is related, but I sure hope he’s right.
Seems to me, as long as we don't program emotions into Robots, there's no reason to fear them taking over the world.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson)
In this new, online-exclusive video for Criterion, Wes Anderson, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, and Willem Dafoe reminisce about the challenging conditions under which they made The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Man I love The Life Aquatic. See check out Criterion’s behind the scenes photos from the set.
Kevin Kelly for Wired:
A massively surveilled world is not a world I would design (or even desire), but massive surveillance is coming either way because that is the bias of digital technology and we might as well surveil well and civilly.
And then it gets really interesting.
But if today’s social media has taught us anything about ourselves as a species it is that the human impulse to share trumps the human impulse for privacy. So far, at every juncture that offers a technological choice between privacy or sharing, we’ve tilted, on average, towards more sharing, more disclosure. We shouldn’t be surprised by this bias because transparency is truly ancient. For eons humans have lived in tribes and clans where every act was open and visible and there were no secrets. We evolved with constant co-monitoring. Contrary to our modern suspicions, there wouldn’t be a backlash against a circular world where we constantly spy on each other because we lived like this for a million years, and — if truly equitable and symmetrical — it can feel comfortable.
There is no question that a “massively surveilled” world is coming. I would argue it’s already here. I too am nervous about it. KK giving it (ancient) historical context is both fascinating and oddly reassuring.
I hesitated to read “It’s All Too Much” because I figured it was for people with very serious clutter problems. I spend a lot of time battling clutter and generally win. But while my house usually appears clean and straightened I secretly manage several caches of papers to scan, magazines to review, and clothes to donate. My hope was that this book would offer up some strategies for dealing with those last bits of clutter. Unfortunately it didn’t.
The first chapter presents a quiz to determine the reader’s position on a clutter scale. There are a possible 20 points. Your score places you into one of three clutter groups.
00-02 points - Clutter free
03-09 points - Clutter Victim
10-20 points - Hard Core Hoarder
I scored a 10. That’s right, according to Peter Walsh I am a “Hard Core Hoarder”. That my friends is absurd.
Instead of closing it right then, I was actually encouraged by Peter Walsh’s outrageous mis-categorization of me. Surely as a “Hard Core Hoarder” I would find some useful information to help me deal with my sickness, right? Nope.
Walsh spends most of the book describing his interactions with people who sound like borderline if not actual hoarders. He describes people who haven’t used their dining room table to eat dinner in decades. People who have trouble sleeping in their beds because they are filled with their kids toys. People with serious problems. Not only were his strategies for dealing with those problems worthless to me, but I was now really offended to be in the same clutter group as these people.
I also took issue with Walsh’s ambivalence toward recycling or reusing all the junk he helps people remove. He touches on recycling and reuse but notes that most shelters could use cash instead of items. Of course they could. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to keep as much of your junk out of the waste stream as possible. I can understand not wanting to complicate the removal process for people who have real issue detaching. But he never mentions listing things for free on Craigslist which has been an excellent strategy for me. I’ve had lamps, furniture, clothing, books, all picked up within an hour of listing. Plus once you’ve agreed to give the item to someone else it’s gone. I think it’s irresponsible to just throw everything out.
While I didn’t get much from the book it wasn’t entirely useless. Walsh touches on some of the issues I’ve started dealing with now that I have kids. For instance it’s hard for me to recycle my daughter’s artwork even thought I know I can’t keep everything. So I’ll scan it all right? Then it piles up. Then I get a goddamned 10 out of 20 on the test even though the drawings are in a neat pile in my office. These are real issues.
Thinking about my (hopefully normal) emotional attachment to those drawings made me feel really bad for actual hoarders. It must be horrible to feel the same way about junk mail as I do about my daughter’s drawings.
Hopefully this book is helping people with very serious issues. The kind of people whose possessions are limiting the way they can live their lives. But if you’re like me and already fairly conscientious about what comes into your house and what you choose to keep, I doubt you’ll find any groundbreaking revelations here.
Also this book doesn’t have a index. It should have an index. ALL BOOKS NEED AN INDEX.
2013 was a weird year in music for me. The last albums by My Bloody Valentine, The Knife, and Zomby are some of my all time favorites. I was super excited that they all released new work this year, but the followups were kind of meh, pretty much unlistenable, and just not very good, respectively.
Luckily some really amazing records were released this year. I’m not a music critic, so I’m linking to the review that best summarizes each album for me as well as a representative (not necessarily my favorite) song.
I’ve really liked everything Daniel Lopatin has released as Oneohtrix Point Never, but R Plus Seven is the first album I have loved. Absolutely incredible.
When I first heard Immunity I thought it sounded too “techno-y”. Then I listened again, and again, and again. Immunity is a beautiful, mesmerizing album.
A long term favorite of mine who snuck in an EP right at the end of the year. There are more of the dark, sparse cityscapes he is known for, but Rival Dealer adds a surprisingly heartfelt and deeply personal narrative this time.
Autechre is my jam band. I can never get enough. I would pay a lot of money for high quality recordings of their shows. I love them. So when they released Exai, a double album, last February I was elated. It is incredible. I’ll be listening to this record for the next 30 years.
Tim Hecker turns in a more acoustic direction and the result is an album of incredible depth and space. He keeps getting better with age. I love this record.
There’s some garbage on this album, there’s some funny stuff on this album, and then there is “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. I’ve listened to it multiple times daily since I heard it this summer. It is absolutely brilliant. The best song of the year without question.
Warning: Whatever you do don’t watch the official video. It’s beyond horrible.
I bought this copy of Time from January 10, 1964 on eBay about ten years ago. I am finally going to clean it up and print a larger version for my office.
Here is an excerpt of the article “The Dymaxion American”.
This might be my all time favorite illustration.
1The recent uproar about the 2DS and specifically John Gruber’s post that they should give in and start making iOS games has a lot of people speculating on what Nintendo needs to do to stay alive. While I read a lot of ideas, this post is mostly in response to John Gruber’s “Nintendo in Motion”, John Siracusa’s “Nintendo in Crisis”, and Marco Arment’s “Mutex Nintendo”.
Up until Gruber revisited his admittedly terse blurb with a longer post, all the arguments I read suggested Nintendo become a software only company, or hunker down and continue along the same path. His suggestion that they do both was a revelation and really got me thinking.
Many people want Nintendo to just dump hardware, but lumping both hardware platforms together is foolish. The Wii U is a miserable failure in a long series of disappointments, while the 3DS is a profitable and popular device in a growing sector. I see a very logical divide between the two. On the software side Nintendo has made a unique differentiation between old games (sold on the Virtual Console) and new games. In this article I’m proposing a way to take advantage of those divisions to develop a presence on iOS/Android and other consoles without totally “selling the farm” and quiting the hardware business.
If I were to take over for Iwata tomorrow, this is what I would do:
Every single selling point of the Wii U has been a failure. It was initially pitched as a half generational step above the current Xbox and PS3. While opinions differ, the Wii U is at best of similar power to the current generation. The revolutionary GamePad and extra graphics power were going to make it the perfect home for Xbox and PS3 ports in addition to Nintendo’s always successful first party games. Thinking that gamers would pay a premium for old ports when the originals are in dollar bins was nuts. Third party developers are moving away from the platform fast. Oh, and the GamePad? You can only use one at a time and the batteries last three hours.
To make matters worse Nintendo employed the kitchen sink approach to the Wii U controller options. There’s a GamePad that’s like a tablet only crappier, and you can use your WiiMote (but only the Wii plus versions!) and there is an Xbox style “pro controller” as well! No one knows what the hell is going on with this thing. Even people who own them have a difficult time explaining the system. Which games work with which control schemes? I don’t know, and your average soccer Mom sure as hell doesn’t either. Remember the halcyon days of seeing a woman bowling with a WiiMote in a TV commercial and completely understanding Nintendo’s vision? That’s over now.
But worst of all is the name. Possibly knowing they had a turd on deck, Nintendo tried to piggyback off the Wii’s success and named it the Wii U (because it’s at college?). The problem is tons of people think the GamePad is an accessory for the original Wii. Iwata says the name has been disastrous for their marketing.
Miyamoto admits Nintendo completely underestimated the switch from SD on the Wii to HD on the Wii U. That explains why it’s been out for nearly a year with no blockbuster software. No major Mario game, no new Zelda, no Smash Brothers, no Mario Cart - Nintendo has made these games dozens of times yet has failed to get a single one out in the first year.
The broken development cycle means that going into this Fall’s new console market, Nintendo’s tent pole games are Pikmin 3 (3rd version of a cult hit RTS), and Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (HD remake of a 10 year old Zelda game). That’s not going to cut it.
The video game news cycle has already passed Nintendo by. This Fall there will be two new consoles that will destroy the Wii U in technical ability, software library, non-game entertainment options, and online capabilities. If Nintendo hasn’t captured significant mind share by now, doing so will be much more difficult once the new Sony and Microsoft machines are out.
With the exception of the Wii, Nintendo has been losing ground on consoles since the launch of the Nintendo 64 in 1996. As much as I hate to say it, I would stop throwing good money after bad and kill the Wii U immediately.
Microsoft and Sony also sell ports of their older games on modern systems. Their older games are sold alongside modern digital releases in the same e-shops. From the beginning Nintendo chose to sell older ports under the Virtual Console brand that has now spanned two generations and six years. Sites report “What’s out on the Virtual Console” instead of just listing virtual releases.
If I were running Nintendo I would take advantage of the Virtual Console braaaaand, immediately release a Nintendo Virtual Console app for iOS, and start porting as many old NES, SNES, Game Boy, and GBA games as possible. The controls for the older games would be less difficult on touch screens. The cheap cost of porting (relative to new development) plus the the power of nostalgia should make Nintendo a TON of money even in the $3-7 price range.
Gruber may be right that new iOS games could be released at a higher price point. iOS sales charts suggest otherwise, and other popular developers (namely Square Enix) have failed to sell well above $10. I would experiment with the Virtual Console first. Nintendo would certainly get an awful lot of data very quickly.
I would also consider moving the console version of the Virtual Console to Xbox and PS3 in the exact same way. The Wii U Virtual Console games are already running in HD.
If for some reason this fails then let the Virtual Console brand take the fall. If it succeeds (I think it will) then Nintendo could use it to push people towards its hardware based flagship titles, and / or start developing new games from the ground up for these platforms like Gruber suggests.
Like Apple, developing hardware and software has always been integral to Nintendo’s culture. I agree with John Siracusa and Marco Arment that they should remain a hardware company. And there is no question that physical controls allow for much deeper game play. Not to mention the fact that Nintendo commonly makes 30+ hour mobile games that have to carry a $30-$40 price point.
As the explosion of smartphones and tablets has shown, computing is moving toward mobile. This is a huge advantage to Nintendo over their gaming rivals Sony (strong console, mediocre handheld), Microsoft (Windows mobile isn’t working), and Valve (zero mobile).
Unlike their consoles, Nintendo’s handhelds have always been popular, and are trending up rather than down. The original DS is the 2nd highest selling video game system of all time, second only to the Sony PlayStation 2. The original Game Boy sold more than the NES and SNES combined, and the Game Boy Advance (the weakest Game Boy ever) sold more than either the Xbox or PS3. These are very popular systems that move a ton of software.
Nintendo needs to take advantage of their aptitude for crafting fun and unique mobile experiences and refocus their resources on improving mobile hardware.
Siracusa is right that Nintendo absolutely needs to improve the usability of its e-commerce experience. It is terrible. They also need to either find a way to make their version of social gaming work better (even though as a father I applaud their dedication to security) or give up on playing cop and open it up.
And Gruber is right that the current screen resolution on the 3DS is horrible. Even free mobile phones have Retina screens now. That has to change fast.
Without a TV based console Nintendo should develop a cheap piece of TV connected hardware that will enable the future DS to push games to the TV and use the handheld as a WII U style GamePad. Airplay has been out for years. The Wii U does this today in reverse. This capability should be well within Nintendo’s skill set.
I highly doubt Nintendo will kill the Wii U anytime soon. Even though the 3DS is doing quite well today it launched (with a lousy lineup) to extremely bad sales. A price drop and loyalty program gave it the jolt it needed to become competitive. Maybe the Wii U price cut announced last week with be the catalyst Nintendo needs to get moving.
But with the Xbox One and PS4 crushing them on the high end, and iOS and Android absolutely dominating mobile gaming, Nintendo’s famously patient approach may end up serving them very, very poorly. I really worry that by spreading themselves too thin they will lose on all fronts. I certainly hope they figure out how to stay relevant.
In the late summer of 2000 I moved to Taos, New Mexico to build Earthships for a couple of months.
When I got there I found an awesome little apartment in a converted barn on the north end of town. I didn’t know anyone in NM going into it, and once there all the people I met lived in the Earthship community about 20 minutes away. So on the weekends I would wander around town and often ended up hanging out at the ashram there. The Neem Karoli Baba Ashram.
I didn’t know much about ashrams or Hinduism, but the people were friendly and interesting, and the food was delicious. I knew so little that I was really surprised when the place went nuts one day when a guy in a wheelchair rolled in. Turns out it was Ram Daas.
There was always an enormous kettle of chai on the stove filling the air with with most delicious spicy smell. I can’t remember who gave me the recipe, but I wrote it down on half an index card and then lost it for nearly 10 years. A few months ago I took an old suitcase to Salvation Army and luckily checked the front pocket before dropping it off. I was elated to find my stained and now yellowed recipe.
While I would rather lose a finger than give up my iPhone it’s kind of sad that I’m not creating notes like this to lose and then joyously find anymore.
If you like chai, or are chai curious, make this recipe. It’s awesome.
Put in pan, heat to boil. Let simmer 20 minutes.
Evolution is one of the central themes of this book, as of all my books, for the simple reason that it is the central, enabling process not only of life but also of knowledge and learning and understanding. If you attempt to make sense of the world of ideas and meanings, free will and morality, art and science and even philosophy itself without a sound and quite detailed knowledge of evolution, you have one hand tied behind your back.
An interesting project to control a light with a webserer by Rodrigo Neri popped up on Hacker News recently. While I liked his solution I did basically the same thing in under an hour for $50 three weeks ago. I thought I should share.
I work at an e-commerce company where we fulfill the orders ourselves. The guys who pick orders generally do so in large batches, then work on other projects during the day. The warehouse manager requested a light that would turn on when the order queue hit a certain threshold to let the guys know it was worth stopping other jobs to pick orders. The manager wouldn’t have to bark orders at them, and they wouldn’t have to keep checking the status screen of our picking station.
I was behind the idea and started thinking about using some type of Arduino controlled device. Then I remembered IFTTT.
I first heard about IFTTT (If This Then That) from Merlin Mann a while ago and signed up for an account. I remembered that they had a hook for the newish Belkin WeMo home control devices. I picked up one of the basic switches at my local Best Buy on the way home for $50.
This is literally it.
I couldn’t believe how simple it was. Less than and hour start to finish. The system has been running for a three weeks with zero problems.
My original plan was to have an rss feed of the order count for IFTTT to read but their feed widget only updates every 15 minutes whereas the email widget is immediate.
The downside is I’m emailing IFTTT quite often during the day. They don’t seem to mind.
The guys like the light so much there have been requests for additional colors or lights to convey additional info. I was tempted to mess around with the Phillips Hue which has an official API. Instead I have decided to use Panic’s new awesome Status Board app to display the order light as well as a lot of other stuff.
Luna Moth ♂
Introducing: Luisa Kelly Swimm
By now everyone has heard that late last night My Bloody Valentine released ‘mbv’, the follow up to their 1991 masterpiece Loveless.
Loveless has been my favorite album from the moment I heard it 21 years ago. After refreshing the site for a couple hours while it was down from traffic I purchased and downloaded ‘mbv’.
While I have a ton of ideas and opinions on it, I am going to give it some time. I’ve been thinking about what this record would sound like for my entire teenage and adult life. It doesn’t make sense to give an opinion after 18 hours and two listens.
If you haven’t heard it, you can stream the new album on Youtube.
Initial reviews of “mbv” are starting to show up. I would hate to have to write a review of this mythical record in less than 24 hours.
I’ll keep updating the list as I find them.
Zomby - Dedication (4AD)
Dedication took me by surprise since I wasn’t a huge fan of his older stuff. It’s a dark, creepy, very personal record that plays like the least danceable DJ set you’ve ever heard. Turn off the Panda Bear track and it’s just about perfect. Listen to: Riding with Death
Holy Other - With U EP (Tri Angle)
I clicked play on ‘Know Where’ when I was supposed to be walking out the door with my wife and daughter this summer. I left them in the car for nearly 4 minutes while I listened to it, absolutely blown away. I haven’t had a song stop me in my tracks like that for years. Listen to: Know Where
Clams Casino - Rainforest EP (Tri Angle)
Mike Volpe is like the Happy Gilmour of Witch House. He’s been struggling to get work as a hip hop producer while making this unbelievable music on the side. Rainforest EP is awesome. Listen to: Natural
The Weeknd - House of Balloons
I hate R&B, but still played the hell out of this album. “The Party & The After Party” has one of the best bass drops I’ve ever heard. This kid is 21. A few more years and a good producer and he will win at music. Period. Listen to: The Party & The After Party
Robert Lippok - redsuperstructure
To Rococo Rot (Robert Lippok’s band with his brother and Stefan Schneider) was one of my favorite bands of the mid to late 90s. Robert Lippok returned to Raster Noton after a 10 year break and released one of the best electronic albums of the year. Listen to: ‘nycycle’
Who Made Who - Knee Deep
I can’t believe I never heard of these guys before this year. Knee Deep is a super fun, smart, electronic rock album. The best part is that lead singer Jeppe Kjellberg has kind of a Six Fingered Man style going on. Watch the video for “Every Minute Alone“.
Vladislav Delay - Vantaa
I was super excited to hear one of my favorite artists was releasing an album on my favorite label and Vantaa didn’t disappoint. According to Raster Noton this is the first in a long term collaboration. Listen to ‘Levite’.
Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica
I can’t say I like Replica better than last years incredible Returnal, but I still listened to it over and over. Unfortunately Daniel Lopatin’s other project Games (which I loved) turned into Ford & Lopatin and released a real stinker. Listen to: Andro
Top Gear is fraudulently disparaging electric cars in a manner directly opposed to the BBC’s editorial guidelines. The show is currently currently being sued by Tesla for claiming their Roadster has a 55 mile range rather than the advertised 211. Then they tested the Nissan Leaf.
Last Sunday, an episode of Top Gear showed Jeremy Clarkson and James May setting off for Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire, 60 miles away. The car unexpectedly ran out of charge when they got to Lincoln, and had to be pushed. They concluded that “electric cars are not the future”.
But it wasn’t unexpected: Nissan has a monitoring device in the car which transmits information on the state of the battery. This shows that, while the company delivered the car to Top Gear fully charged, the programme-makers ran the battery down before Clarkson and May set off, until only 40% of the charge was left. Moreover, they must have known this, as the electronic display tells the driver how many miles’ worth of electricity they have, and the sat-nav tells them if they don’t have enough charge to reach their destination. In this case it told them – before they set out on their 60-mile journey – that they had 30 miles’ worth of electricity. But, as Ben Webster of the Times reported earlier this week, “at no point were viewers told that the battery had been more than half empty at the start of the trip.”
I don’t get Top Gear. I’ve watched it a few times and find Jeremy Clarkson to be an absolutely unbearable blowhard. He’s like the UK’s version of Jay Leno. They’re both sad old dinosaurs that should be put out to pasture. If you’re not familiar with Jeremy Clarkson’s work, his review of the original Prius is an excellent starting point.
It’s disappointing to see the BBC allow this type of disinformation to be spread so widely.
I first heard about the Clock of the Long Now in 1996 while reading Brian Eno’s diary from 1995 “A Year With Swollen Appendices”. In it he quoted Danny Hillis’s initial idea for the clock written in 1993:
When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. Now, thirty years later, they still talk about what will happen by the year 2000. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. w I think it’s time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of the Millennium. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium.
Brian Eno (a member of the Board of Directors and designer of the clock’s melody) adds:
Such a clock, if sufficiently impressive and well engineered, would embody deep time for people. It should be charismatic to visit, interesting to think about, and famous enough to become iconic in the public discourse. Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think.
Shortly after it was published in 2000 I read Stewart Brands book “Clock Of The Long Now: Time And Responsibility: The Ideas Behind The World’s Slowest Computer”, then there was a very long period where it seemed the project has stalled.
11 years later the clock is officially under construction. Jeff Bezos recently got involved and donated 42 million dollars as well as a West Texas mountain in which to house the clock. The mountain is on the same property as his spaceport, BlueOrigin. He also launched a website with photos and a listserve to reserve visitation timeslots “when it is complete (many years into the future)”.
Last month Kevin Kelly (Long Now Foundation Board Member) posted “The Clock in the Mountain”, a summary of where the project is now. Only a week later Wired published “How to Make a Clock Run for 10,000 Years” which focuses on the individuals making this crazy idea a reality.
I love the idea of thinking on a 10,000 year timeframe. I cannot wait until the day when I buy a plane ticket to Texas to see it for myself.
Interviews have been scarce, so it was very interesting to see how reliant his music is on hardware. If you’re familiar with him there’s bunch of stuff you would expect to see, a Nord, Space Echo, and bank of MoogerFoogers. But I have to wonder what he’s doing with that fish finder on his desk.
Check out the other photos here, here, here, and a larger version of the cover. If you’ve never heard Vladislav Delay check out the first track from ‘The Four Quarters’ . Download it for free here.