March 26, 2011
Here's what I'm currently thinking about the internet

As much as people are writing and thinking about the net, what you really need to read to understand anything about the net is

  • Some information theory

  • Basic cybernetics - which is hard to come by without having to read a lot of gunk by the way

  • A little McLuhan

  • A little microeconomics

  • A little anthropology

And that's basically it, as far as I currently see it. Then what you want to do is extract out of these fields a few salient stand alone models to reason with, and then run these models over a good set of pivotal examples of net phenomena.
As the internet continues to dissolve it's becoming less and less appealing to study specific internet literature, and more and more appealing to study the fundamentals of the fields that describe the powers that drive the net.

For extra credit, teach yourself some of the basics of the theory of computation, to understand exactly how malleable models are. It's way too easy to set out to discuss the internet, and not realize the central current powering it all - which is the extraordinary capability given to us by digital machines - of making any abstraction a reality, and in turn move our thinking to this new platform. Thermodynamics tells us that perpetual motion machines are impossible - but that's only in reality. In the realm of ideas we truly have perpetual motion machines, and you're reading these words using one, right now.

Posted by Claus at 03:40 PM
March 23, 2011
What's the most common prosthetic none of us have today, that will exist in 2020?

Once in a while it's worth wondering what profound changes we're in for in the next decade if any. With that in mind, what's going to be the most common prosthetic in 2020 that none of us have today? Phones and smartphones are out of the running - we already all have those. Tablets are almost out of the running - or they would probably be the answer.
Let's exclude them - then what is it going to be? Or is the question wrong - like asking "what will be the most popular programming language in the home in 1990" in 1978? Will evolution be elsewhere? Won't technology be evolving in the prosthetic space at all?
My professional bet is on biohacks, but that might just be a little too science fictiony for a while to come. Other than that a swarm of chips around the phone seems likely to me. iPhone ready jackets and watches and glasses and pockets. 2020 might be too close for that. It might take another 5-10 years.

Posted by Claus at 12:27 AM
March 15, 2011
Det uafventelige

Ikke for at dramatisere, men at følge med i situationen omkring atomkraftværket i Japan, føles på mange måder ligesom dengang vi sad og ventede på at min far skulle dø. Han havde fået et slagtilfælde, og så fulgte 3 ugers limbo, hvor man ikke rigtig fik nogen gode nyheder, men heller ikke meddelelsen om katastrofen. Man kunne ikke rigtig gøre noget, men man kunne sige sig selv at man var på vej mod en virkelig drastisk forandring.
Så tager man sig i bare at ønske sig at få det overstået, sådan at man kan få gjort kontoen op og komme igang med at se på hvordan man kommer videre. Og det kommer man jo.
Det er også slet ikke ligesom dengang, for ulykken i Japan er ikke vores ulykke. Vi kommer ikke til at lide under den. Ligeså meget man kan føle for japanernee i situationen, lige så forkert er det at bilde sig selv ind, at det her er noget der sker for os. Vi har ingen ret til at blive lammede af det.

Det er pokkers svært at få overblikket. Svært at få en skala på. Helt konkret så har jeg det problem lige nu at Wikipedia opslaget om Tjernobylulykken taler om stråling i fysiske enheder (becquerel), mens alle de data vi får fra Japan er i strålefareenheder (sievert), som er en omregnet skala. Sievert er godt at kende for de, der er inden for 20km fra atomkraftværket, men vil næppe være en relevant målestok for en større region, for det vil ikke være akut strålefare en større region bliver udsat for. De ved formodentlig endnu ikke hvad storskalaeffekterne kan blive endnu.
Venten kan være det værste.

Posted by Claus at 09:36 AM
March 12, 2011
Flowmedierne er elendige til at oplyse os om verdens tilstand

Situationen omkring det jordskælvsramte, og muligvis katastroetruede, japanske atomkraftværk er illustrativ for et problem vi har med flowmedierne - og de omfatter desværre også netaviserne, sådan som de bliver fremstillet. Flowmedierne er simpelthen elendige til at fortælle os om tingenes tilstand, når tingene ændrer sig hurtigt. Nogle af dem er rigtig gode til at aktivere vores interesse i lynfart, men når tingene begynder at ske, falder billedet af hvad tilstanden er hurtigt sammen.
Doc Searls skrev en god blogpost, hvor han samlede op på hvordan vi fik nyhederne fra Japan, og han har den rigtige observation, at det ender med at Wikipedia er det bedste sted at holde status - simpelthen fordi Wikipedianisterne rydder op i de gamle historier efterhånden som nye data kommer ind, hvor aviser og flowmedier bare rapporterer det næste flow.
Lige nu er netaviserne for eksempel et rodet miskmask af snak om nedsmeltning på reaktoren - baseret på pressekonferencer fra i går - nye rapporter om øget radioaktivitet, og endnu nyere om en (mindre) eksplosion på værket.
Jeg anbefaler i den sammenhæng en blogpost fra februar om forskellen på stock og flow.

Posted by Claus at 09:22 AM
March 11, 2011
It's on you

I've always been a specialist first, but I've managed a few people anyway and the hardest trick - and the most essential - has always been to teach people what I will now name Locked Room Thinking.

Locked Room Thinking is the realization that you're in a bind, and there's nobody else, but that you'll make it out anyway. You're faced with some problem, and instead of assuming that there's a workaround, or that somebody else will come along and fix it for you, or maybe they already know what to do, or maybe it can't be done at all you simply need to learn the mindset that you're the guy on post, and nobody knows better and you're just going to have to work it out. I'm sure that sounds completely toxic to a lot of coaches and workplace happiness experts, but in my experience it's the essential difference you need to make in your work.
I don't know if this is a danish thing - I don't really think so - but it's been rare for junior employees to come in the door with this mindset where I've worked. It can take a lot of coaxing to build this spirit in people. The good news is that I know from experience that it can be built; it's not a basic character trait that you either have or you don't.

The Internet is great, thinking out of the box is great, collaboration is great and shortcuts are awesome but compared to your complete and total belief that the problem is there in front of you, and that it's not going away, and that no one else already has the answer, and that it's on you to fix it, and that you have the ability to do that. That is the essential step in getting things done.

Posted by Claus at 01:06 PM
March 09, 2011

Over the years, as I've tried to familiarize myself with more and more culture, in particular more and more genres of music, I can look back at a lot of what I've come to call gateways - in a musical context "gateway albums".

Gateways are the works that either transcend notions of genre completely or works made by gifted artists of one genre, simply visiting another. Looking back at the gateway albums once you've familiarized yourself with a genre is always interesting. More often than not, the old gateways pale once you've internalized the true value system from the genre. The point of the gateway was always to show you the values of the genre, not entirely to adopt them. It's mostly a matter of visiting not being.
But I still treasure the great gateways - they truly provide an invaluable service. I'm never going to wake up in 1968 i Harlem with tickets for the James Brown show later that night at the Apollo. How am I going to figure out what that's all about without a tour guide?
I'll give you some examples, to firm up what we're talking about, and try to separate various types of gateway.
Let's start with the work of geniuses. Miles Davis' Kind of Blue is the quintessential example of an album that simply transcends the genre it comes from. You could say it's a jazz album. It clearly is. But it doesn't really matter, because the playing and music is so fantastic that pretty much anyone with ears can understand that it is. Appreciating Kind Of Blue won't tell you if you'd appreciate jazz music as such. What you're picking up on isn't necessarily "what jazz players do". It's what Davis is capable of. What Bill Evans is capable of. What Cannonball is capable of.

For a white kid from Scandinavia most of Prince's albums are good gateways to the funk gods. Once you've come to appreciate the JB's circa 1970, and revisit Prince, you understand that there are limits to Prince's funk. It's clearly no longer the funky stuff that impresses you, more the 80s synths and drum machines. The liberties Prince takes with the funk to make it palatable to a rock audience kills a lot of the fun. The live performances brings a lot of the funk back, but still - it's just not Sly Stone or James Brown or George Clinton.
Prince is a good example of a classic difference between the gateway artists and the real thing. The gateway artists are always individualists. Modernists, not traditionalists. They are always personally present in front of the music, whereas the truly great genre musicians often give off a vibe of being in service of the genre even though they are of course always really great players in their own right.

My personal introduction to latin music - in particular mambo - was not furnished by gateway extraordinaire Buena Vista Music Club (which might not be a true gateway at all, by the way, but more on that later. I got my intro years earlier through David Byrne's Rei Momo album. I've been listening to that again lately, and it actually holds up pretty well. In front of a backdrop of pitch perfect latin, Byrne makes the music simpler for a westernized pop listener by singing some good songs.

Bob Dylan, and also The Band, have been great gateways to american roots music. Dylan is palatable to the adolescent-in-the-80s-in-scandinavia me, because he adopts the "subjective performer" standards I expect, but the music is clearly informed by all manner of roots music.
On a similar note, The Rolling Stones used to do the same thing for the blues. The Stones you listened to because they're the Rolling Stones! but of course they actually know all of the standard repertoire and their music is fully informed by tradition.
For pure country, a European like me could do a lot worse than listen to a couple of Elvis Costello albums: King of America for the easiest way in and Almost Blue for a more genuine visit to country music.

More recently, Oh Brother Where Are Thou has done a stellar job of playing roots music for a new audience - but that's not a true gateway album in the sense I mean. That's an actual showcase of the real thing - like Buena Vista Social Club mentioned above - made possible by sugaring with moving images. The Commitments soundtrack-album comes closer to gateway-ism for soul music, since it's clearly soul played by an all white tribute band.

Every genre deserves great gateway artists.

Posted by Claus at 10:57 PM
March 07, 2011
Mandagsposten bliver en tirsdagspost

OK, så gik den ikke længere. Imorgen.

Posted by Claus at 11:57 PM