Categories
Culture Tech

Nothing is random

Discoverability will forever be twisted in the maw of internet algorithms.

Nothing is ever truly random. We are data’s significant other with a bullseye on our back.

Facebook has been triangulating our data for years, matching our likes with the highest bidder. Designers, copy-writers, and marketers work together to create internet ads that strangle our attention into a click-hole.

So here we are, next up surrounded by the internet of things to feed the system of ads. We invite zero ambiguity — we tell the system what we want, and it reports back.

Look around — we’re well-trained click monkeys forever melting into a spiderweb of Times Square.

Categories
Science Tech

Dancing with the algorithms

We dance with the algorithms, yielding time-saving results. How else are we to discover all these gems in a sea of content? How are we to land on the right words in a swamp of choice?

From Spotify to Gmail’s suggestive text, we accept the computer’s recommendations to curate and speak for us. We allow the recipes to crunch down our tastes and our speaking patterns, essentially doing all the homework for us.

Playlists generate themselves; emails answers themselves. 

Yet, just as humans are poor decision-makers, the symphony of algorithms is also flawed. 

“An algorithm is an opinion embedded in math,” writes Cathy O’Neil in her book Weapons of Math Destruction (Amazon).

The computers and their code are often in over their heads, impractical, and sometimes stupid. Just ask Facebook — it takes a human to quell the dangerous idea virus that is fake news. 

The algorithm, written by humans, also requires human moderation. 

The ultimate balance of power is the intermixing of human neurons with the speed of computer nodes. Connecting humans to computers will supercharge decision-making in a fast-paced world. 

Thoughtless algorithms seem to know us better than ourselves, for now.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Tech

The art of doing nothing

Relaxation is an art, antithesis to our ‘always on’ culture.

But it takes work to do nothing. Those tiny hits of dopamine are addictive.

The route to super-consciousness is paved with roadblocks, the least bit unplugging from the maelstrom of 24/7 news and unnecessary push messages.

We crave novelty

Chasing the rectangular glow for entertainment produces intense cognitive clutter. All the engagement makes us less happy in the end.

Distracted into busyness, we begin to decay into inanition. We miss the events unfolding in our day, permitting evil to spread as a consequence of blindness.

When we’re interacting in excess, we miss out on recharging and thinking. Disconnection is the only way to put the mind back into the mix.

The goal is not just to relax, per se, but to be free from collecting screen souvenirs. What we want to strive for is long-term serotonin.

We fight for the present to turn idleness into concurrent exploration. Time ticks to the clock as the mind does to the brain. Breathe and stop, we can stave off the ludic loop.

Surrounded by accelerated context, moments of silence seem to be the only way to make anything click.

Categories
Culture Life & Philosophy Social Media Tech

Our fragile, famous lives

The cafe was the original newsfeed, a meeting place to exchange ideas and to find out what the heck was going on in the world.

The cafe was a place, other than a detached home, where Arabica beans filled people’s minds with sparks of aliveness. 

Exposure to high thought influenced great art. 

But then fame happened — the instant gratification of smartphones converted authenticity into the thrill of collecting views and hearts. 

How one in today’s age wants to be naked and famous yet maintain their privacy is lunacy. Fame and confidentiality is a zero-sum game. 

The cuckoo has been tik tokked into the dizziness of freedom. Infotainment sends the chicks back to the nest, amusing themselves to death through the “wisdom” of devices.

In a wreck of people and data, the clouds beckon us to pursue self-constraint. In a world devoid of scarcity, there arises a pandemic of sore thumbs.

Quarantined in such loneliness, the uncertain future compels us to go big on the internet stage. The domesticated strive through wires while Zooming in their underwear.

Categories
Arts Creativity

The Olivetti Valentine typewriter

An icon of 1960s pop-art design, the Olivetti Valentine typewriter was designed by Italian architect Ettore Sottsass and British designer Perry Ellis for the Italian company, Olivetti.

Sottsass covered the typewriter in red “so as not to remind anyone of monotonous working hours.” Its iconic red color was a precursor to the iMac, a machine that also differentiated itself from other computer products by offering a panoply of vibrant colors.

The late great music icon David Bowie was known to have one of the Olivetti Valentine typewriters in his own private collection.

The typewriter debuted on 14 February 1969, hence the name ‘Valentine’ and also existed in a neutral gray color as seen below.

The Olivetti Valentine typewriter
Photo: Twitter/dean_frey
The Olivetti Valentine typewriter
via twitter
Categories
Culture Life & Philosophy Tech

Let go to grow

The internet is a thing of convenience.

Now that we’re all stuck in our cubby holes, we may think it makes sense to over connect with our peers.

But sometimes we have to step away and ‘let go to grow.’

So we pick up new hobby horses. Instead of tweeting, we send a hand written note to an old high school buddy.

When we hurry slowly, the birds outside grow a little louder and appear more beautiful. Nature calms us down and resets our noticing engines.

Let go to grow

Technology compels us to hustle. And while it helps push things along, what we see is that overdrive makes us blind.

Minds are fragile to begin with. And while they be plastic, there’s a limit on the number of neurons we can grow. The web will always be more infinite and exhausting.

Life is connected to many things we can’t see and in ways we are just starting to understand.

We don’t have to strive to be always on. Instead, we bask in the incomplete.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Social Media Tech

Inward and outward, all at once

We do nothing until it’s too late.

You’d think such calls for immediacy would drive us into action.

Passivity begs a slap in the face.

The way to light life back up without a disaster first coming into your path is to avoid the contagion of disengagement.

Television and social media are low bandwidth activities that dull the brain into inanition.

Get unstuck from the madness that is pure entertainment.

The urge to create turns loafers into participants

It takes energy and discipline to escape the lure of doing nothing.

Detach yourself from the comfort of the stream.

Instead, decide to entertain yourself on the broad view of what you can do.

Categories
Productivity & Work Social Media Tech

One too many chips

Continuous partial attention makes it too easy to snack. Instead of waiting for the main meal, we fritter our hunger away on too many chips and salsa. We’re full before the entree.

Replace chips with social media, and you start to see the excess wear and tear we put on our bodies and minds. We can’t possibly consume all this information and still devour the main meal. It’s like eating all the popcorn before the movie starts.

Unless we plan on taking the food home with us or putting on some extra weight, we better slow down and refocus our attention on why we decided to eat out in the first place.

If you’re going to snack, do it in moderation, so you’ll still have plenty of room left over to absorb the good stuff.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work

Reexamining the Kiss Principle

“Keep it simple and stupid.” That was the acronym coined by aircraft engineer Clarence Johnson during the early 1930s. He proposed the “H” style tail for airplanes which helped stabilize flight.

Keeping it simple is always easier said than done. What may appear visually simple, took a deduction of complex details.

We don’t get to simplicity without amassing a pile of disparate parts first and then building shitty first drafts.

Complexity is often hidden within the design — such as the case with Apple products and apps like Instagram which appear simple on the outside but contain convoluted architecture and code on the inside.  

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” said Leonardo da Vinci, who painted over pieces that didn’t meet expectations. Artists like Pablo Picasso and writers like Ernest Hemingway edited down their pieces, again and again, to reduce their craft into the most practicable and understood forms.

Erasing difficulties requires patience of experimentation. It takes both head and heart work to minimize the unnecessary while maximizing utility in powerfully simple ways.

With a bit more curiosity and execution, we can turn less into more.

Categories
Culture News Tech

A medium and its message

The medium is the format in which something works. The selection of media predetermines how content gets disseminated and shared.

The Internet is a mass medium. Newspapers are a medium. TV, radio, podcasts, and books are also mediums.

A medium is any messaging mechanism that connects people together to help facilitate communication. The medium is the fulcrum for storytelling including all its characteristics. Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.”

But some platforms are more powerful than others. Audio, argues Alex Danco in his piece “The Audio Revolution.”

Meanwhile, the physical properties of the medium you choose will also influence the temperature of what’s being communicated. A photograph is hotter than a pencil: they both make pictures, but one makes low-resolution sketches and the other high-definition images.

What’s hottest? You might think that the highest-resolution format of all could be visual, typographic or video. But it’s not. It’s audio.

As much as we think visual-first platforms like Instagram and terse Tweets are the most compelling storytellers, it is the distribution of audio and speech that cut straight to the point.

Listening to George W. Bush galvanize firefighters on top the rubble of 9/11 through his bullhorn with these words is practically a pierce in every Americans’ brain.

“I can hear you!” Bush declared. “The rest of the world hears you! And the people – and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” The crowd firefighters and crew responded with prolonged chants of “USA! USA!”

One doesn’t need to see the footage to feel the aura of the speech.

Writes Danco:

Audio is how you communicate what you really mean, straight into ears, headphones and car radios, intimately and directly. Music is good at this, but speech is even better.

Whatever it is that’s being communicated, audio will heat it up.

Your ears understand what’s really being said, and they seek hot content.

There is no content without a medium. If content is king, then the medium is its own eponymous and gargantuan device.