March 11, 2014
"And so Silicon Roundabout has metastasised into Tech City, possibly because everyone feels a bit silly saying Silicon Roundabout. New name, same basic idea, but with misguided government glitz. Tech City is very big on “incubators” – places where startups are supposed to grow out of a collection of adjacent desks in a huge barracks of other adjacent desks – and on luring big firms to the East End of London. It’s a lot less interested in small, weird companies in small, cheap offices, plumbing the unplumbably weird problem space of late 21st-century capitalism."

— Cory Doctorow skewers the hypocrisy of both local and national government in this great, sad story of the slow death of London’s Silicon Roundabout, a silly non-name coined to mock precisely what it then inexorably became, quite despite itself. 

March 6, 2014
Remembering Sherwin Nuland

Surgeon, author and speaker Sherwin Nuland died on March 3, 2014, at age 83. Here’s a beautiful blog post with recollections from those who saw his *astonishing* 2001 TED Talk. But really, just take out 20 minutes and watch the talk, with its powerful personal story of crippling depression — and the electric shock therapy treatment that saved him. Heartbreaking and heartwarming, all at the same time.

March 3, 2014

Tea and Geoff McFetridge. A charming combination.

February 1, 2014

"Where will learning be? Will we still consume degrees? Will we make learning on demand? Will we have the power to tailor learning to individual needs, not just the speed of learning but also what we learn? How much of a difference will this make? Can we make learning truly addictive the same way we make video games addictive? If so, how do we get there?

Will we invest $100 million into a class the same way today we invest $100 million into a great movie? What would that do for the quality of education?”

I got to oversee a conversation between Sebastian Thrun, he of Google’s driverless car and, now, higher education wannabe disrupter, Udacity, and Khan Academy founder, Salman Khan. I loved how candid both gentlemen were, acknowledging the ways in which they’re constantly challenging themselves. There are no easy answers to solve our gnarly education problems, and no one is saying these guys have landed on the solution. Particularly not these guys, which was strangely heartening.

February 1, 2014
"Good design doesn’t feel like anything — it just feels good."

— New Kleiner Perkins design/VC partner, John Maeda takes a trip to Flipboard.

December 9, 2013

Our Drone Future, by Alex Cornell. This is great. (via Shoshana Berger.) 

November 20, 2013
"I was a consultant for the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and I worked on a drone concept for the game, a quadcopter called Charlene. Now defense contractors are trying to make Charlene real. So it flips the relationship. Previously, the military would research and develop something and then spin it out to the civilian sector. Now the military is faced with a challenge of how to spin in technology."

— I absolutely love this conversation between political scientist P. W. Singer and journalist Matthew Power we published today on the TED Blog. Too many great, thought-provoking quotes to choose from to feature… Far-ranging and fascinating.

November 19, 2013

I’m sure this will be everywhere, but Allan Chochinov from Core77 just sent it my way and, well, I think it’s charming so am happy to be part of the cacophony. The “Adjustable Clampersand" (geddit?) was designed by Tony Ruth of Lunch Breath, mechanical design was by Tim Haley of Tangible, while the clamp is manufactured in Chicago.

November 18, 2013
"Just as our ancestors domesticated vicious dogs and dangerous large herbivores, so too will we humans need to safely domesticate narrow AI organisms. Doing so will involve building social structures to resist the power-centralizing effect of such easily multiplied, mindlessly obedient and inscrutable digital constructs. Failure to adjust to the rapid spread of narrow AI throughout society will come with stark consequences."

— Great quote from a great piece by sci-fi author, Daniel Suarez: The Automation Age: Daniel Suarez on why drones + “Narrow AI” make us nervous

November 17, 2013

DRONES! I’m overseeing a package about the good and the bad of drones on this week. *Super* excited about it… such great content to come. And the team cut together this trailer, featuring previous speakers who’ve touched on the topic on the TED stage. How cool/scary/terrifying is this?

November 16, 2013

When HCI people debug their code, it’s like an art show or a meeting of the United Nations. There are tea breaks and witticisms exchanged in French; wearing a non-functional scarf is optional, but encouraged. When HCI code doesn’t work, the problem can be resolved using grand theories that relate form and perception to your deeply personal feelings about ovals. There will be rich debates about the socioeconomic implications of Helvetica Light, and at some point, you will have to decide whether serifs are daring statements of modernity, or tools of hegemonic oppression that implicitly support feudalism and illiteracy. Is pinching-and-dragging less elegant than circling-and-lightly-caressing? These urgent mysteries will not solve themselves. And yet, after a long day of debugging HCI code, there is always hope, and there is no true anger; even if you fear that your drop-down list should be a radio button, the drop-down list will suffice until tomorrow, when the sun will rise, glorious and vibrant, and inspire you to combine scroll bars and left-clicking in poignant ways that you will commemorate in a sonnet when you return from your local farmer’s market.

This is not the world of the systems hacker.


— I am not a systems engineer, so I remain unconvinced I understood all the references in The Night Watch, a piece by Microsoft researcher, James Mickens. Nonetheless I found it a hilarious, excellent read, with some sharp observations of the pecking order within computer science.

November 15, 2013
"When we speak truth to power we are ignored at best and brutally suppressed at worst. We are confronting a power structure that does not respect its own system of checks and balances, never mind the rights of it’s own citizens or the international community."

Jeremy Hammond’s sentencing statement to the court, after being tried for hacking activities. He got ten years.

November 15, 2013
"In late September, a vessel came apart shortly after leaving Indonesia, and dozens of asylum seekers — from Lebanon, Iran and Iraq — drowned. That people are willing to hazard death at sea despite Australia’s vow to send them to places like Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Nauru would seem illogical — or just plain crazy. The Australian government ascribes their persistence partly to misinformation propagated by the smugglers. But every asylum seeker who believes those lies believes them because he chooses to. Their doing so, and continuing to brave the Indian Ocean, and continuing to die, only illustrates their desperation in a new, disturbing kind of light. This is the subtext to the plight of every refugee: Whatever hardship he endures, he endures because it beats the hardship he escaped. Every story of exile implies the sadder story of a homeland."

Well, this is just devastating. Two other details stand out in this incredible NYT magazine story about asylum-seekers braving horrific conditions to escape from their homes in Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere to try for a good life in Australia.

1. Writer Luke Mogelson describes that one way to measure the success of the US-led war in Afghanistan is by the current exodus of citizens from the country, pointing out “the first “boat people” to seek asylum in Australia were Vietnamese, in the mid-1970s, driven to the ocean by the fallout from that American withdrawal.” So there’s another unintended consequence of another war in the name of freedom and liberty. Nice one.

2. The detail of an Iranian father who is hesitant to destroy his son’s passport just about finished me off. "When the scissors came his way, he carefully cut out the photo on the first page and slipped it in his wallet." Damn.

November 14, 2013

I have a fundamental problem with a man who sits on a golden throne and lectures us about spending less, like a modern-day, white-tie clad sheriff of Nottingham. And all around him, the insidious stain of austerity creeps across the country, manifesting in the bedroom tax, rising tuition fees and the closure of public services that vulnerable people depend on.

Each of us has just one chance at existence, and so many people’s lives are being blighted by these cuts. If this is the cruel and damaging reality of permanent austerity, then we should be telling Mr Cameron we don’t want it.


— Ruth Hardy, who waited tables at an event at which British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke, airs her double take at the disconnect between what he was saying and where he was saying it. It was hard to stomach David Cameron preaching austerity from a golden throne. Indeed.

November 9, 2013

Keiichi Matsuda got in touch to remind me about a post about his work I wrote back in 2010… and to tout his new Kickstarter campaign. He wants to create a “science fiction short for our time.” Augmented reality… design fiction… the city of the future… What’s not to like?