A few years ago I discovered the best way to capture ideas in the shower: a dive slate. I have put mine to good use over the years. Each time I fill one up I take a photo to remember it. Below is a collage with the 37 slates I filled up this year. I highly recommend this tool.
It has only been a few days but I have to say that I am immensely enjoying my Nexus 5. For months I have been complaining incessantly about my first Android, a Samsung Galaxy S3. The quality of the software was pretty low, but most of all it was the cheap, soft plastic body and plastic AMOLED screen which scratched and scarred too easily. I was used to the solid build quality of my previous iPhone 4.
When my coworkers got Nexus 4s last year I was envious of the bright displays and glass bodies. The Nexus 5 takes it to the next level with a 445ppi IPS display. It is really gorgeous. Although the body isn’t glass, it is a solid plastic that has some weight to it and feels good in the hand. I don’t think it will chip easily like the S3, but it has only been a few days and I haven’t dropped it. The protruding camera is a bit of a concern (the protruding camera on my S3 is all scratched to hell), but it performs much better than the S3. I am not sure how it compares to an iPhone though.
As for the software, since I have been using a Nexus 7 for the past couple of months I am used to the vanilla Google experience, which is vastly superior to TouchWiz (though there are still a few shortcomings compared to iOS). I look forward putting something more open on the N5 in the future, something that was really difficult to do with my Mac and the S3.
All in all, a great phone. One other bonus: unlocked! I got the S3 on contract (the first time I have had a contract phone for years) and I am so glad to be free from telcos. I am using a T-Mobile SIM while I am in San Francisco, and will just pop in my old SIM when I return to Canada next month. Then while I am in Japan for New Year’s I will use a SIM from there — just like nature intended.
For the next few weeks I will be on the road. One of my business partners and I will be in San Francisco for the next month or so (leaving tomorrow morning) to raise some money for the new business we have been working on for the past year. Anyways, I will probably posting a lot of tweets and photos of the trip. The last time I was in SF was almost exactly 2 years ago. I wrote about my impressions then. I am really looking forward to the challenge it will be this time. Give us a shout if you are in the area and want to meet up. We will have office space in Runway while we are down there.
In late December I will be back in Canada briefly before jetting off to Japan to meetup with the wife and kids, who left for Kyoto last week. We will be hitting Tokyo Disneyland for Xmas, then Tokyo Skytree before heading back to Kyoto for New Year’s. As always, following my postings on Twitter and photos on Flickr. All four of us will be returning in early January. Then, who knows where the journey will take us next?
Ron Deibert’s book title should probably have the word “tour” in it somewhere, as that is the primary purpose of this book. He covers a whole variety of topics surrounding the fragile nature of the world wide web as we know it. Some of the topics include:
Although he warns old timer D&D players (and grognards) not to get bound up in the rules because this is a story to introduce people to fantasy roleplaying games, David Ewalt has succeeded in writing a story for longtime devotees like himself. Of Dice and Men is part history and part adventure story, detailing the creation and rise of the innovative fantasy role playing game (RPG) Dungeons & Dragons, while intertwining autobiographical tidbits about his relationship to the game over its long history.
There is a lot here about Gary Gygax, the rise and fall of TSR, and all the historical context and minutiae that nerds like me will appreciate. People just getting into the game should get a good understanding of DnD’s legacy, but nerds like Ewalt and myself — nerds who lived through it — will enjoy this book on a whole other level. As I said in my tweet to David Ewalt:
Lots of nerds must feel the same after reading: “This is MY story.”
Below are links to all the off-the-cuff reviews of books and film from this quarter. I didn’t add to my list of more in depth reviews. During 2013Q3 I did not read as many books, but read a few comics and got addicted to Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga (vol 1, vol 2) and Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye (vol 1, vol 2). I have since picked up more of Fraction’s work to read for the future.
Furthermore, I only read a couple of books on internet politics as I finally released my thinking on an information-centric political philosophy. At the recommendation of a couple of academics I have been reading some journal articles on the subject, but this quarter I plan to finish Gabriella Coleman’s Coding Freedom and Ron Diebert’s Black Code.
It took about 100 years of the Industrial Age before Karl Marx introduced a revolutionary new political philosophy centered on the most important issue affecting citizens of the day: labour. One hundred and fifty years later, nearly a half century into the Information Age, we have yet to move on. The increasingly numerous knowledge-worker proletariat has not mobilized for a political philosophy centered around the most important commodity of our time: information. As Future Perfect author Steven Johnson put it of his own country: “The United States is still living with an operating system that was conceived and designed before railroads were invented.”
As I see it, there are two major facets of information that are critical for our society: manipulation and control.
The manipulation of information (ability to find, filter, analyze, etc) is key to being a productive citizen, and it is what we are trying to teach our children. More and more of our understanding in the fields of commerce, biology, climate science, sociology, etc. hinge on advancements in computing and networking capabilities. So many of our problems as a society are being recast as information problems. Having the skills to parse these problems is increasingly necessary.
Second, the control of information (transparency, privacy, surveillance, encryption, copyright, etc) is a critical question for our times. For the past 150 years Marxists have decried the exploitation of labour and encouraged citizens to value their labour and use it as a source of power. Today, whether it is the NSA or Facebook, it is information exploitation that needs to be brought to the attention of the general public. Institutions are learning to become more transparent and individuals are learning that they need to be better at controlling which of their information is public and private.
Thus, the engaged citizen of the 21st century must be information savvy (able to manipulate and control information) for both personal and economic reasons and deserves a political philosophy that reflects this reality. I am temporarily labeling such a philosophy “Information Politics”.
For the part of society that is already directly engaged in the manipulation and control of information (ie. the technology industry) there are typically four competing political movements available to choose from: libertarianism, crypto-anarchism, the Pirate movement and peer progressivism.
Whether or not libertarianism is rampant amongst the meritocratic digerati of Silicon Valley has been the subject of recentdebate between New Yorker Columnist George Packer and author Steven Johnson. However, libertarian philosophy centers around personal liberty and private property. It is rooted in the anti-nobility movements of the 17th century. There are dozens of variations of libertarianism but what can be said is that “information” does not play a central role in the core political philosophy. It is the product of a different age.
Crypto-anarchism — with the rallying cry of “freedom through encryption!” — is considered a subcategory of libertarianism. It makes privacy a central tenet, as well as control of information through its advocacy of encryption technologies. Although I think it was an important contribution in the 1990s, there is not enough depth for a revolutionary political philosophy.
The Pirate Party movement rose out of the anti-copyright internet culture. The founder, Rick Falkvinge, thinks that “self-empowerment of the identity” is the “core” of their philosophy. The Pirate Wheel is his attempt to flesh out the niche pirate theme of copyright into a wider political philosophy. Like the internet, the Pirate movement is borderless. Yet, I find it interesting that even though the organizational operations of the Pirate Party reflect the internet, the method of action has been to participate in the staid domestic political systems based on Westphalian states, rather than taking a more disruptive approach.
Peer progressivism, as proposed by Steven Johnson in Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age (my review here) positions itself as an alternative to libertarianism. The philosophy is network-centric rather than information centric, but it has the advantage of being formed in an era with vast distributed communications networks, something the libertarian philosophers of the 17th century lacked. Future Perfect also impressed David Ronfeldt (of netwar fame). See his 4 part runthrough (1, 2, 3, 4)
of the book, comparing it to his own TIMN theoretical framework. Although I will not go into it here, I think peer progressivism shares many characteristics of the type of philosophy I am looking for, but the emphasis is slightly different.
In conclusion, of the four current alternatives, there seems to be no established fit for my ideal of Information Politics. I cannot seem to find an academic or thinker or philosopher attacking this problem of finding a political philosophy for the information age.
Questions going forward
In my search for Information Politics, I am left with a number of questions:
can Peer Progressivism turn into Information Politics? What about the Pirate movement?
or is Information Politics really just a subset of libertarianism? Could there be another classical root?
what does functional politics in IP look like? Liquid democracy? Participatory budgeting?
can this even fit into current (19th C) democratic political process?
Also, what kinds of questions need to be answered by a political philosophy in general?
international affairs (as a transnational movement, we might have the advantage of a ground up apolitical solution here)
What are some core values of such a philosophy?
access to information
freedom of information (copyright)
protection of privacy
technology as a force for progress
I have been rolling this concept around in my mind for a few months now, and have built up many notes and articles. Unfortunately, I cannot dedicate enough time searching out resources. I expect there is an academic out there that has already gone over this ground. I would appreciate it if you all could suggest readings for me, or connect me to people who I could talk to to further develop my thinking on this problem. Heck, if you can come up with a snappier name, that’d be great! Please send me your feedback either by (encrypted) email or comment on Hacker News.
Below are links to all the off-the-cuff reviews of books and film from this quarter, besides my more in depth reviews. During 2013Q2 my family spent 7 weeks in Japan, so there was quite a spike in my media consumption. I do not even list the television series that I watched while they were away.