Friday, December 28, 2007

Watch this Space...

At some time in the future I'll be writing a review of The Meaning of the 21st Century by James Martin.

In it he mentions "the tragedy of the commons" and how companies should factor in the cost to society and cost to the environment of their activities, as well as more familiar expenditures.

These ideas are similar to those explored by Genichi Taguchi in the eponymous Taguchi method of industrial design.

Just thinking aloud. Read and prosper.



Because I have new years resolutions to draft I want to get all the bile out of the way as quickly as possible so that I can enter 2008 a clean vessel ready to be filled with another year's worth of anger, fear, depression, hatred and smug vindictiveness.

Here is an essay that, even though I don't live in the USA, has inspired me to new levels of self-righteous arrogance. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason is such a joy.

Here is a HowTo at Vice magazine that is so un-PC I could weep. Bravo.

And Charles Stross has written a wonderful Christmas wishlist. I'd add one of these neat-o Soviet supersonics as well.

And to round off: we need nukes! Nuclear power is brilliant! Long live Monty Burns! Hooray for the atom!

Monday, December 24, 2007


I was in the Manchester Museum recently (it is rather good), and I saw a rather splendid display of bows and arrows. These were in many different styles and from many different cultures. There were little interactive displays that told you how the bows were made. An awful lot of effort and craft goes into what I had always assumed was a simple piece of wood.

Thinking about this as I struggled to operate my rapidly aging Sony Ericsson K750i it occurred to me that nowadays that level of development is rarely reached. Innovation and evolution happen so quickly that there is no point in refining a particular device. Hence mobile phones and mp3 players are rather unpleasant and tacky. Good design does crop up occasionally but the general rate of development is such that avenues of design are left unexplored and concepts are left incomplete.

Putting aside speculative discussion of a spike or singularity in the near future I sometimes wonder what “technology” and devices will really be like in, say, a thousand years time. What will human beings look like and how will they move around? In what manner will they reach orbit? Will they even bother?

In the realm of the state change seems constant and always disruptive. The pointless and dangerous desire to collate and store information is partly simply due to the technology being available to do it. This leads to accidents.

I feel privileged to live in this time of change but I do sometimes wonder if humanity will ever achieve an equilibrium with its environment. 99% of human history consists of people living in hunter-gatherer style societies. The current "singularity" we're living through will presumably result in either out destruction or in some new equilibrium. I wonder what it will look like.

Friday, December 21, 2007

An Observation

Why is it that marketeers seem to think that people really use their laptops in grassy parks?

In every university prospectus on the "online" page there will be a picture of an attractive student sitting in a park using an Apple MacBook Pro.

For some reason these people also frequently barefoot.

Why would anyone be using the web in the middle of a public park without any shoes?


  1. You'd get mugged.
  2. Students that can afford MacBook Pros can also afford appropriate footwear.
  3. Most grassy parks are not the sort of places you want to walk about barefoot in.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

American Gangster

I went to see American Gangster. It was rather good. I made the – not original – observation that the only ethnic group not heavily represented in organised crime in the USA are the WASPs. This is because they got in early and legalised all their rackets. Hence instead of drug smuggling, gun running and racketeering you have General Tobacco, Boeing and the World Bank.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Arthur C Clarke

Happy birthday Arthur C Clarke!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Stephen Fry

Every so often I come across some piece of writing, drawing, idea, or scientific theory that is so goddamn good that it depresses me that I will probably never be able to create something half as good.

I've been re-watching the first season of The West Wing recently. I've also been attempting The Guardian cryptic crossword. I've also been catching up on Stephen Fry's blog. All these things are wonderful. Two of them are guaranteed to make you feel warm and fuzzy and smart. The crossword is a bit of a downer until you get a word and then you feel on top of the world.

Fry's blog is actually "a joy to read." The simple act of reading it makes you happy. I've been linklogging everything he's written because it is of such superlative quality.

This blessay is especially brilliant: Fry summarises the positions of the three broad attitudes towards global warming and why (in game theory terms, considering what it is at stake...) it is most correct to adopt an attitude that holds that CO2 emission should be reduced.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Problem...

I just thought of something: when you say "Christian" or "Catholic" or "Muslim" you immediately think of someone who has adopted a particular set of ideas and beliefs. These beliefs will generally include:
  1. A belief in God, and a belief in some kind of personal relationship with God
  2. A belief that the world is the way it is because of God's will
  3. A particular moral code and lifestyle
When you say "atheist" the first two are essentially the opposite:

  1. There is no God
  2. The world is the way it is for reasons other than God or the supernatural
Number 3. is absent. There is no immediate identification with any kind of moral or ethical code in atheism.

I appreciate that Dawkins, Hitchens et al are approaching the problem from the front end - attempting to persuade those who have settled into lazy agnosticism to actually express their atheism openly.

Morality is ultimately a creation of people - not God - and as such atheists should be clear that whilst they reject God, irrationality, and the power structures these things support they are in fact advocating morality more strongly than religionists.

Atheists strip away the fretwork and tinsel of religious ceremony and expose the uncomfortable truths that we are all profoundly alone (in the sense that there is no omnipotent divine being) and our only comfort is in each other and as such we should support and respect each other as best we can.

Atheists should be clear that morality is everything. There is no cosmic scorecard, only the people who surround us, how they judge us and how we judge ourselves.