Friday, December 6. 2013
The Onion's Nelson Mandela Obituary
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Rolihlala, his given Xhosa forename, means "troublemaker" by the way ) died yesterday. I've never been a fan of the "Great Man" theory of history, believing that it is systemic - but in this one case, I'd make an exception. There is no need for the Beloved Country to cry, but to rejoice in what he has achieved, not least the prevention of bloody civil war. In my view the principles of Truth and Reconciliation should be made globally mandatory after any conflict.
Satire has a marvellous way of telling deep truths via humour, and internet newspaper The Onion sums up Madiba's impact perfectly (above)
(We went to the same university, so I like to think I walked in his footsteps just a tiny bit - mainly to the canteen, I suspect, in my case......)
Monday, November 11. 2013
Tuesday, October 15. 2013
Today is Ada Lovelace Day, celebrating women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Elaine Morgan died this year, she helped develop a fascinating thesis of a part of human evolutuion, and was a very talented woman.
On her thesis - like many I was curious about why, of all the land mammals, only humans and pigs have little body hair and do have subcutaneous fat, whereas all sea living mammals have them. Morgan wrote about the Aquatic Ape theory. (Wikipedia):
Morgan first became drawn into scientific writing when reading popularizers of the savannah hypothesis of human evolution such as Desmond Morris. She described her reaction as one of irritation because the explanations were largely male-centered. For instance, she thought that if humans lost their hair because they needed to sweat while chasing game on the savannah that did not explain why women should also lose their hair as, according to the savannah hypothesis, they would be looking after the children. On re-reading Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape she encountered a reference to a hypothesis that humans had for a time gone through a water phase, the so-called aquatic ape hypothesis. She contacted Morris on this and he directed her to Alister Hardy. Her first book The Descent of Woman (1972) was originally planned to pave the way for Hardy's more academic book, but Hardy never published his book.
I remember being delighted when I read "The Descent of Woman" in the late 70's, as it was clear it was both a fascinating hypothesis and tweaked the nose of the existing heirarchy. The theory is still at the sidelines of scientific thought (though there is still no good explanation of why we and pigs are more like Dolphins in so many ways), but good for Elaine for squaring up to the scientific establishment and rocking it.
She was also a fascinating character and quite the Renaissance woman (Wikipedia again) :
RIP Elaine, Renaissance Woman in an over specialised age.
Tuesday, September 3. 2013
Ronald Coase died yesterday, he won his Nobel Prize for understanding transaction costs in business value chains and externalisation of costs (eg pollution), these have been critical to understand online economics and tehe volution of digital business, social business just being the latest iteration. Wikipedia:
Coase is best known for two articles in particular: "The Nature of the Firm" (1937), which introduces the concept of transaction costs to explain the nature and limits of firms, and "The Problem of Social Cost" (1960), which suggests that well-defined property rights could overcome the problems of externalities (see Coase Theorem). Coase is also often referred to as the "father" of reform in the policy for allocation of the electromagnetic spectrum, based on his article "The Federal Communications Commission" (1959), where he criticizes spectrum licensing, suggesting property rights as a more efficient method of allocating spectrum to users. Additionally, Coase's transaction costs approach is currently influential in modern organizational economics
He is also famous for his take on lies, damn lies and statistics - "If you torture the data enough, nature will always confess"
Tuesday, July 23. 2013
MG Siegler on Tech Blog News:
A few months ago, I found myself in an odd position — with some time off. A lot of it. Naturally, I decided to use the time not to disconnect, but instead to double-down on tech news. I set out to achieve “Pocket Zero” and catch up on nearly everything I had saved to read later but never got to over the past year or so.
Only 20% is complete bullshit? I think that way underestimates it! When you get large numbers of scribblers who barely understand the technology, have little grasp of economics and Kiplings 5 Servants, but loaded to the gunwales with opinions and funded by vested interests, you are not going o get a lot of truth.
MG references the PandoDaily whoopsie, where whispered innuendo, repeated enough times, eventually got reported as fact, but as he notes they are just a notable outlier in the dynamic:
There has long been a “speed versus accuracy” debate within the tech blogosphere. When I was in that world, I was definitely in the “speed” camp. Get something out there and let the truth reveal itself — process journalism, baby. If the readers aren’t comfortable with that, let them read elsewhere.
Siegler does note that the mainstream media is generally more accurate, which, 10 years after the Great Blogging Revolution began, signals the beginning of the end of the Pirate Days, when newcomers invade with alternate funding and agressive business practices to steal market hare off incumbents (see chart above, predicting in 2008 that the end would have begun by 2013, oddly enough)
Anyway, I think the figure of 95% of news being somewhere on the spectrum of complete bullshit to somewhat bullshit is probably about right, which is of course what has given Broadstuff such a rich ecosystem to feed on. Finding material to write mildly satirical stories about the industry since 2006 has been like shooting fish in a barrel*
*And the fishy story stocks are not depleting, either. We could push out Tech satire Onion style, in Mashable volumes if we desired.
Sunday, July 21. 2013
Tuesday, June 25. 2013
There are a number of great old Victorian cemeteries in London (the Magnificent 7, they are called). Highgate in North London is the most famous as Karl Marx is buried there. A chance meeting with some members of the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery put me wise on some of their famous corpses - including two serious Geeks Of Yesteryear - Hiram Maxim (most famous for his machine gun) and Henry Bessemer (for the Bessemer steel making process). However, in reality these two were also real geek entrepreneurs and reading about their expolits can be quite instructive for anyone starting in business today. A bit of Wikipedia:
A lesson there on patent trollism for today from Mr Edison to boot....
Bessemer was a prolific inventor and held at least 129 patents, spanning from 1838 to 1883. These included military ordnance, movable dies for embossed postage stamps, a screw extruder to extract sugar from sugar cane, and others in the fields of iron, steel and glass. These are described in some detail in his autobiography.
As another famoues dead person said, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. WE have looked at the evolution of technology over the last 200 odd years a number of times:
The Role of Bubbles
The Mathematics of Paradignm Shifts
And Are we more Innovative than 100 years ago....
And one of the lessons that comes overagain and again is that technology is a waveform, and what is to come has already been in some shape or form, as Carlota Perez noted (summarised here by Alex Sherman):
The critical point Perez makes is that technology revolutions occur in regular cycles (she calls them “surges”) that can generally be analyzed within a recurring conceptual structure. To that end, she divides each technological surge into two basic periods, each lasting roughly 20-30 years: the installation period, in which a radically new technology enters a mature economy and significantly disrupts the incumbent technologies; and the deployment period, in which the new economy reshapes itself around the new technology. These two periods are joined via a turning point, in which the frenzied investment surrounding the initial growth of the nascent technology creates a large market bubble and financial collapse, thus clearing the way for the more sound and controlled growth of the deployment period. Perez also explores the role of capital investment within each period of the surge, and asserts that the installation period is driven by the interest (and folly) of financial capital, while the deployment period is perpetuated through the measured and diligent investment of production capital.
Anyway, I trotted along on the last Open Day, and took the photos of these two Great (dead) Geeks (pictures at top of post), but also realised that this huge 42 acre cemetery, with some of its very Gothick tombs and wild growth, is also absolutely zombietastic (below).
Sunday, June 9. 2013
Thursday, April 11. 2013
At the top of the South Sea Bubble of 1711-1720, investors were eagerly pouring money into an enterprise advertised as:
"a company for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is"
At the (current) top of the Bitcoin Bubble (2011 - ?) investors are pouring money into:
"a company* for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, with a currency that doesn't exist, generated by a method that nobody is to know what it is (and wouldn't understand if they did)"
This time, of course, It Will Be Different.....
Or alternatively, read George Santayana
* I use the term loosely
Monday, April 1. 2013
Guardian's April Fool joke was Guardian Goggles, a device that makes the avidly right-on personista happier by removing sights that are vexatious to their tender souls:
"Now, when you're out shopping, you needn't have memorised our recent features on ethically sourced foods. Just call up the 'Mini-Monbiot' app, and the products you're looking at will be rated in front of your eyes."
The real joke though, is that this really exists today, as people are increasingly selective about the opinions they seek on the Internet leading to a wider polarization of views. It even has a name - Selective Exposure. None so blind as those that can see.....
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