Computers are the wrong smartness.

From Isaac Asimov’s 1975 short story “Point of View,” talking about Multivac, a malfunctioning computer:

“…if Multivac were as smart as a man, we could talk to it and find out what was wrong no matter how complicated it was. If it were as dumb as a machine, it would go wrong in simple ways that we could catch easily. The trouble is, it’s half-smart, like an idiot. It’s smart enough to go wrong in very complicated ways, but not smart enough to help us find out what’s wrong. And that’s the wrong smartness.”

That accurately describes most computers and software today, almost 40 years later: they’re the wrong smartness.

Developing People vs. Developing Products

Great quote from bunnie about Makers:

The Maker movement, I think, is less about developing products, and more about developing people. It’s about helping people realize that technology is something man-made, and because of this, every person has the power to control it: it just takes some knowledge. There is no magic in technology. Another way to look at it is, we can all be magicians with a little training.

That comes from an interview bunnie did with, which you can read here:

“Shaping Things” by Bruce Sterling

I just finished “Shaping Things,” by Bruce Sterling.  It’s a very broad look at the way technology, people, and society have changed – and changed each other – over time.  And since it’s by Bruce Sterling, it’s mostly focused on the possibilities of tomorrow.

My favorite quote:

“Tomorrow composts today.”

Very cool – both the quote, and the book.

Sterling looks at five classes of technosocial relationships:

  • Artifacts / Hunters and Farmers
  • Machines / Customers
  • Products / Consumers
  • Gizmos / End-Users
  • Spimes / Wranglers

Definitely worth a read.

I got it from the library, and I’m going to hang on to it for a little while longer and read it again.  It’s short, but conceptually dense.

Definitely worth a re-read.

Hacks and Hack-Nots

The world is divided into two kinds of people: Hacks and Hack-Nots.

Hacks people hack.  They want hardware and software (aka “technology” or “tech”) they can change, optimize, use as they please, modify, destroy, etc. – in short, they want to hack.

Hack-Nots people do not hack. They don’t want to know what “hacking” means. They want their hardware and software to Just Work.  They don’t want to be aware of technology at all, they just don’t care.  They want to email, work, check Facebook, etc. – in short, they want to do something other than use the tech.  Technology is a means to an end, nothing more.

Hacks check email, Facebook, blogs, etc. just like Hack-Nots, but for Hacks the journey is more important than the destination.  The experience of checking email is more important than the email itself.  Configurability is key.  Even if it Just Works out of the box, Hacks will optimize it to their liking.  Technology is an end in itself.

For Hacks, optimization and configurability are more than just a Nice To Have, they are Moral Imperatives.  They believe it is actually morally wrong to not be able to mess with their technology.  They believe that being told they can only use C++ is slavery.  Even if C++ is their favorite programming language in the world, not having a choice is wrong.

For Hack-Nots, optimization and configurability are a distraction. Putzing around with settings is a waste of time.  They do not want to mess with technology that already works.  They do not care that software can only be written in C++.  They do not know what C++ is, and they will never care.

Until the last five or ten years most computing technology was made by, and for, Hacks.  Recently this trend has changed. Most technology is still made by Hacks, by definition.  Somewhere, however,  someone with an eye for the desires and dollars of the Hack-Nots took notice and is now telling the Hacks what to make.

Not in all cases, of course.  Most technology is still Hacks-only.

But the Hack-Nots are coming, and technology is on its way to meet them.  Hack-Nots will drive the marketplace simply because they are more numerous than the Hacks.