The Echo From Amazon Brims With Groundbreaking Promise – The New York Times

The Echo From Amazon Brims With Groundbreaking Promise – The New York Times

[The Amazon Echo] is opening up a vast new realm in personal computing, and gently expanding the role that computers will play in our future.

Northanger Abbey (Penguin Classics) by Jane Austen, Marilyn Butler

Northanger Abbey (Penguin Classics) by Jane Austen, Marilyn Butler


Northanger Abbey presents reading as at once a trivial pursuit, a form of social bonding, the quest for pleasure and satisfaction, and a trainee’s preparation in reading the world. The pervasiveness of the theme of reading, from the first paragraph to the last, queries the frequent claim that the novel fails to hang together; yet it does not dispense with it entirely, since Austen cross-refers to very different kinds of novel.

Orality and Literacy | A Working Library

Orality and Literacy | A Working Library

Ong’s is perhaps the only book I’ve discovered that carefully and thoroughly addresses the differences between oral and literate cultures.

In pointing out that Plato used writing to deliver his objections to the written word, he says,

“Once the word is technologized, there is no effective way to criticize what technology has done with it without the aid of the highest technology available.” (page 79).

Digital pioneer, Jaron Lanier, on the dangers of “free” online culture

Digital pioneer, Jaron Lanier, on the dangers of “free” online culture

Jaron Lanier, a keynote speaker at the WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market from April 20 to 22, 2016, is a Silicon Valley insider, a virtual reality pioneer and one of the most celebrated technology writers in the world. But he is increasingly concerned about today’s online universe. He explains why and what it will take to turn things around.

What are your main concerns about the digital market today?

We have seen an implosion of careers and career opportunities for those who have devoted their lives to cultural expression, but we create a cultural mythology that this hasn’t happened. Like gamblers at a casino, many young people believe they may be the one to make it on YouTube, Kickstarter or some other platform. But these opportunities are rare compared to the old-fashioned middle-class jobs that existed in great numbers around things like writing, photography, recorded music and many other creative pursuits.

Economically, the digital revolution has not been such a good thing. Take the case of professional translators. Their career opportunities have been decreasing much like those of recorded musicians, journalists, authors and photographers. The decimation started with the widespread Internet and is continuing apace. But interestingly, for professional translators the decrease is related to the rise of machine translation.

Automated translations are mash-ups of real-life translations. We scrape the translations made by real people millions of times a day to keep example databases up to date with current events and slang. Elements of these phrases are then regurgitated into usable machine translations. There is nothing wrong with that system. It’s useful, so why not? But the problem is we are not paying the people whose data we are taking to make these translations possible. Some might call this fraud.

All these systems that throw people out of work create an illusion that a machine is doing the work, but in reality they are actually taking data from people – we call it big data – to make the work possible. If we found a way to start paying people for their actual valuable contributions to these big computer resources, we could avoid the employment crisis that otherwise we will create.

So what needs to be done to ensure a sustainable digital economy?

The obvious starting point is to pay people for information that is valuable and that comes from them. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but the basics are simple and I am sure it can be done.

Some sort of imposed socialist system where everybody is the same would be ruinous. We should expect some degree of variation. But right now a handful of people – those inheriting traditional monopolies like oil and the increasingly powerful big computer networks – have a giant chunk of the world’s wealth and it’s having a destabilizing impact. While an oil monopoly might control the oil, it won’t take over everything in your life, but information does, especially with greater automation.

If we expect computers to pilot cars and operate factories, the employment that is left should be the creative stuff, the expression, the IP. But if we undermine that, we are creating an employment crisis of mass proportions.

That’s where IP comes in. The general principle that we pay people for their information and contributions is critical if we want people to live with dignity as machines get better.

But IP needs to be made much more sophisticated and granular. It needs to be something that benefits everybody – as commonplace as having pennies in your pocket.

It is the only future that gives people dignity as the machines get better.

IP is a crucial thread in designing a humane future with dignity.

How would you like to see the digital landscape evolve?

I would like to see more systems where ordinary people can get paid when they contribute value to digital networks; systems that improve their lives and expand the overall economy.

Economic stability occurs when you have a bell curve, with a few super-rich people and a few poor people but most people somewhere in the middle. At present, we have a winner-takes-all situation where a few do really well and everybody else falls into a sea of wannabees who never quite make it. That’s not sustainable.

You are supporting the Conference on the Global Digital Content Market that WIPO is hosting. Why is that?

IP is a crucial thread in designing a humane future with dignity.  Not everybody can be a Zuckerberg or run a tech company, but everybody could – or at least a critically large number of people could – benefit from IP.

IP offers a path to the future that will bring dignity and livelihood to large numbers of people. This is our best shot at it.

Who are your heroes and why?

There are many, but they include:

  • J.M. Keynes,  he was the first person to think about how to really manage an information system.
  • E.M. Forster for The Machine Stops, written in 1907, which foresees our error with a very critical eye.
  • Alan Turing, who stayed a kind person even as he was tortured to death.
  • Mary Shelley who was a keen observer of people and how they can confuse themselves with technology.

And of course my friend Ted Nelson. He invented the digital media link and was perhaps the most formative figure in the development of online culture. He proposed that instead of copying digital media, we should keep one copy of each cultural expression on a digital network and pay the author of that expression an affordable amount whenever it is accessed. In this way, anyone could earn a living from their creative work.

What is your next book about?

Dawn of the New Everything: First Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality is a memoir and an introduction to virtual reality. It will be out soon.

Human Factors and Ergonomics, STEM | Danielle Ishak — Mavenly + Co.

Ishak — Mavenly + Co.

It’s not necessarily unique to wonder about human interaction and why people do the things they do, but for Danielle Ishak, her curiosity went a bit further than a day dream. Working in the area of Human Factors and Ergonomics, Danielle studies humans interacting with synthetic humans. Yep, she works with robots. Find out how Danielle discovered the industry, fell in love with it, and what advice she would give women looking into careers in STEM.

Occupation: Work at SAP as a Human-Factors Professional investigating software interfaces and Human-Robot Interaction

Last Thing You Read: Quantifying the User Experience by Jeff Sauro and James R Lewis

How did you get started?

My story follows that  generic narrative of students in college getting inspired by their professors. In undergrad, I studied interactive media and one of my professors introduced us to the concept of the user experience when interacting with tangible things such as robots. I always knew that I was interested in humans and why they act or respond in certain ways, but I didn’t know how to apply this to a real occupation that was not pure psychology. I did some research and then came across the discipline of Human Factors and Ergonomics and realized that my interest was a field that was actually fairly high in demand in the economy. My interest grew tremendously when I realized I could investigate humans interacting with synthetic humans (aka humanoid robots). That concept simply blew my mind so I applied for a master’s program shortly after my discovery. This process took me two whole years after college, so in the meantime, I gained some experience through working various marketing jobs. I think it was great to work in other environments to figure out not necessarily what I wanted to do, but more about what I didn’t want to do.

The Do Book Co. – Do Design – Why beauty is key to everything

The Do Book Co. – Do Design – Why beauty is key to everything

Do Design: Why beauty is key to everything.

‘The act of creating something of beauty is a way of bringing good into the world. Infused with optimism, it says simply: life is worthwhile’. Alan Moore’s new book is set to inspire us to make better things, for better reasons.

Whether it’s a website, a handmade chair, or a business – we are encouraged to ask: is it useful and considered. Is it a thing of beauty? And this isn’t some throw away remark about a sunset or pretty dress. It’s the idea of creating something that might endure – often beyond the lives of its creators.

One example in the book – as seen here – is Fred and Hugo at Blitz Motorbikes building motorcycles from discarded parts – giving new life, energy and purpose to old bikes. Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project, describes the book as, ‘An excellent guide to the essence of beauty – the freedom to create it and an argument for its power and importance to the soul.’