Archive for October, 2016

The Canadian view

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

I’m in Canada at the moment, and the view from here about our upcoming election is one of complete disbelief. They see one candidate who is highly qualified, and another who is … well … there are no words to describe it.

When people here ask me how a person like Donald Trump could get so close to the White House, I have no answer for them. Frankly, I have no answer for myself.

It feels to me as though there is some sort of sickness in the American psyche that we are working through. Hopefully that sickness will run its course, and we will get it out of our system. But it is indeed unnerving that we are even as close as we are to making such a bizarrely self-destructive choice.

Fortunately Trump is doing everything possible to lose this election. As far as I can tell, he’s given up on running against Hillary Clinton, realizing that he is hopelessly outmatched. Instead, apparently, he’s decided to run against Bill Clinton.

Which makes about as much sense as anything else he’s done.

Tribute band

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Today I got a great idea for a tribute band. Our band would do only cover versions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Nothing else — just that one song.

Except that we would do it in every conceivable style: Blues, Bossa Nova, Calypso, Country, Death Metal, Doo-wop, Dub, Folk, Funk, Fusion, Gospel, Goth, Grunge, Klezmer, Lounge, Motown, New Wave, Polka, Prog Rock, Psychedelic, Punk, Ragtime, Rap, Reggae, R&B, Rockabilly, Ska, Soul, Swing, Techno, and of course Zydeco.

Our interpretations would fill entire albums. Eventually, this thing would grow beyond us, to become an ever-expanding movement. People all around the world would spontaneously start to host their own Hallelujah parties, raves, concerts, even theme parks.

Entire channels on YouTube would be devoted to new and exciting interpretations of Hallelujah. This could be just the beginning of something really big.

I think it’s a great idea.

Hate agendas

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Recently someone has started attempting to comment on my posts, with a point of view that most readers of this blog would think of as a “hate agenda”. By that I mean something rather specific.

When you group together any large segment of the population, be it women, or jews, or blacks, or whatever, and take the position that you hate the lot of them, that’s a hate agenda. You are willfully ignoring the fact that you are speaking about a diverse set of individuals, and you are therefore essentially attempting to deny their very humanity.

The next step — which this would-be poster has eagerly embraced — is to then start making up or spreading nutty hateful untruths about the group they’ve chosen to victimize. I suspect that the person who does this sort of thing probably knows, on some level, that all their accusations are false. After all, it’s easy to check actual facts.

But when we deal with hate agendas, we are also dealing with an extreme form of confirmation bias. The Holocaust denier never even glances at the enormous body of evidence documenting genocide. Similarly, the mysogynist and the racist scrupulously avoid looking at any and all facts that would put the lie to their nutty theories.

Whatever drives such people, it is coming from some deep psychological place, perhaps a place of pain, that seems to be beyond rational discourse. Therefore I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing I can do about people with hate agendas.

Except, of course, not let them use my blog as a forum.

The demo worked

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

This morning we took a huge chance and did a live demo, in front of a very important audience, of something we had never before demo’d in public. And it worked.

Going into it, I was feeling a lot of anxiety. When you do something for the first time, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. And the things that actually go wrong are just about never any of the things you thought might go wrong.

But thanks to the work of a number of very hard working people, the demo actually worked. And the highly technically literate audience was clearly surprised and delighted that it worked.

That kind of reaction is often an indication that you are on to something important. I think we might be on to something important. 🙂

Real history

Friday, October 7th, 2016

So much of what passes as public discourse about “the history of technology” is false. Most people in the field know it’s false, but there’s not much they can do about it.

When you tell anyone in the press something you know to be true about that history, but which is generally at odds with the prevailing “story”, you can be pretty certain that what you say will not be reported. If you are speaking to a reporter on the phone, what you say will not make it into the article. If you are doing a television interview, those parts will get edited out. Believe me, I’ve been through it many times.

I don’t think that this is because reporters are trying to not be truthful. It’s more that they don’t think it is their responsibility to correct incorrect history. It’s simply not something they think of as part of their mandate.

Which is why it was wonderful today to seew Brenda Laurel get up in front of a group of young people at the Weird Reality conference and give an accurate history of the relationship between interactive narrative and evolving media technology.

She didn’t say anything that would be controversial to someone who actually knows the true history of this stuff. But many of the things she said would not have been heard before by the young people in the audience, if they had heard only the conventional wisdom — the version that “everybody knows”.

Some of those young people, noticing the disparities between what Brenda said and what they thought they knew, might even look it up afterward and realize that her accounting of that history was accurate. That would be nice.


Thursday, October 6th, 2016

There were many amazing events at the Future of Storytelling Summit, where I have spent the last two days. Brilliant workshops, exciting performances by such luminaries as Bill T. Jones, and an astonishing number of great ideas to think about.

But for me the highlight was getting to meet astronauts. Three honest to goodness astronauts were invited to the summit, to talk about their experiences in the International Space Station, which orbits the Earth every ninety minutes. Then we were invited to work as a group to create an experience that would help people to realize that we are all together on this planet.

Why astronauts? Well, I have to say that talking to these people — who have seen the world in a way that none of the rest of us really has, as a beautiful, fragile globe — has been inspiring. And all the other attendees had the same reaction.

There were so many wonderful ideas contributed by people in the session. My modest contribution was to organize an event when everybody in the world does the Wave at the exact moment that the Space Station flies overhead.

The astronauts themselves were really wonderful, and there were all sorts of things to like about them. For one thing, they were all extremely genuine and down to earth people. And of course they are very smart. But I think the core of it is that because they embody the erasing of artificial boundaries between cultures and nations, astronauts have a uniquely positive totemic power.

Also, as somebody said during one of the sessions “Everybody loves astronauts.”

Punch drunk

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Today I had a great conversation with Felix Barrett, after which he suggested that we collaborate.

I am punch drunk with delight.

Can’t wait to see what comes next!!

Sputnik was a baby boomer

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

The Space Age has just
One more year to go until
It will turn sixty

Creating the future

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

The other day I came up with a cool idea for a slogan for our lab. I ran it by a friend, and she really liked it.

Then I ran it by some colleagues and they really liked it too. In fact, they all agreed that it would be great if they could also adapt it as their lab’s slogan.

Unfortunately, none of us can really use it, as catchy as it may be. I will tell you what it is, and let you decide:

“We’re creating the future, so you won’t have to.”

As you can see, it’s a very catchy slogan, but completely unuseable. Which is a shame, because I hate to see such a great slogan go to waste.

I’m thinking of donating it to the Trump campaign.

Analogies, part 2

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

Today I had planned to plunge into a discussion about how wearables are about to follow the arc of the transition from iPod to iPhone. But then I read J. Peterson’s comment on yesterday’s post, and it really struck a chord.

Let’s assume that some large corporation does what Apple did, and creates a plan to “encourage” young kids to stay within that company’s bespoke ecosystem. In that case, wearables might follow a well understood arc.

Parents will first give their little kids a “games only” wearable, one that does not provide full access to the big bad world. On this device, which will be the future equivalent to the iPod Touch, those kids will gradually accumulate apps.

But unlike today’s iPhone apps, these will be more like Pokemon Go — appearing to exist in the world itself. Once kids have these shared apps, they will be able to play all sorts of games and activities together in an augmented reality. These games will be filled with virtual characters that will appear to enhabit the physical reality around them, somewhat like a high-tech version of Philip Pullman’s daemons.

Then when they reach the age of 13, these kids’ parents will grudgingly get them a grown-up wearable that communicates fully with the world. This will be a sort of future equivalent of the iPhone.

Of course the brilliance of this plan is that kids will stay within the ecosystem that allows them to continue to have access to the games and activities that they have learned to love. Except that their loyalty will be even more extreme than the loyalty that today’s kids have toward the Apple ecosystem.

After all, it will be the very reality around them that they will be choosing not to give up. If you ask me, that’s a pretty impressive way to market a product.