"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Talk on Sufficiently Advanced Technology

It’s trite to say that technological literacy is a must-have skill for the 21st Century, but this is one of the things that really concerns me as a parent. I worry about my kids growing up surrounded by technology that they can’t hack, can’t fix, and basically operates as a black box. Glowing screens with big juicy icons that deliver the goods, right up until they don’t. And then what?

A gap is definitely emerging. One can observe a growing divide between people who have a general understanding of how computers, phones, and the internet work, are able to reason about this, make inferences and educated guesses, and those who sink below the event horizon where as Arthur C Clarke said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

This is dangerous, for a whole bunch of reasons.

First of all because without broad technical literacy this gap will deepen, harden, and there are good odds we’ll develop into a world of haves and have-nots. This is how you end up with the dystopian “HYPER REALITY” outcome:

Further, once you start assigning magical (or spiritual) value to the work of technology, you create a tremendous risk of obfuscating the human agent behind various decisions. People already have a tendency to believe or trust things a computer tells them, but algorithms are not “math” - they’re a series of particular human decisions on how to use particular bits of math to produce a particular outcome.

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Don't Take Any Shit from a Machine

This is a bit of a callback to classico Outlandish Josh posting. I’m pulling up stories from the early aughts, but hopefully it’s fun and you stick with it; I promise there’s a contemporary tie-in at the end.

Twenty years ago when I was working in politics full time, I was also going out to the Oregon Country Fair in the summers. It’s one of the older and better hippie festivals. In 2004 I helped organize a voter registration drive there, and happened to get a chance to meet and chat with S-tier guru legend Stephen Gaskin. In spite of this also being in the shall we say spicier era of my blogging career, I never wrote this particular anecdote down.

The Oregon Country Fair is a massive hippie festival held every summer in a beautiful wooded area outside Eugene where I grew up. There are around 1000 different stalls that get set up along a massive figure-eight path, and over 30,000 people attend.

The real deal is you need to have a job there to be able to be a part of the action. It’s open to the public from like 10am to 6pm, and tens of thousands of people will come and it’s a big hairy Height Asbury/Dead show parking lot scene in the woods. Crafts and food. Music and art. Then they sweep out the public and the 5,000-ish people who are running the event, who have a booth there, or are otherwise connected enough to make the cut as “Fair Family,” who are camped out for the weekend have the place to themselves. They (we) have a giant fucking party. Which is tremendous fun.

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Making a Break For It

Looking at the feed here it's a bit of a shambles, innit? Most of my long-form energy has been spent at work, and residual creative output, which is (happily) reduced since family-time comes first, has been mostly done on my phone in off hours.

But now Twitter threads are broken. I used to scratch my writing itch that way, but ever since the functionality regressed such that threading tweets basically spams everyone's feed I feel like I need to stop doing those.

Might this actually be the thing that gets me back to blogging? Stranger things have happened.

The idea of writing under your own masthead is hardly new. POSSE: Publish Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. That's the Open Web Way. But it's way too complex for most people to do, as evidenced by the fact that I — a trained professional with a personal stake in the fortunes of said Open Web — haven't been doing it myself.

There's an element of hypocrisy here, sure, but also logistical practicality. Social media provides a really comfortable form-factor for posting from your phone, which is where I have time/opportunity to do it these days. Plus the instant feedback dopamine hack is real. That's why it's eclipsed broadcast media as the mass medium of our era.

Things are changing though, devolving. Now that we're almost all entirely online and well past the point where there's a centrally dominant network, there could be a swing back to the open as sites inevitably rise and fall. Lots of trend-lines pointing in that direction, which is (mostly) a professional concern for me since I'm in the business of helping organizations get results out of their owned web presence, but maybe there's something personal in it too.

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Feelin' the Bern, Silicon Valley Style

I'm back with my first blog post in years to make what I hope is a novel case for supporting Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic Primary. The "Silicon Valley" or "Startup" take. I've got a lot of thoughts, but I don't see a ton of people expressing the techie/entrepreneur rationale for supporting Sen. Sanders, so that's the case I'm gonna make.

Support the Startup Economy

TL;DR - no policy would create more startups in the next ten years than establishing universal health care and eliminating student debt.

The economy around startups isn't what it should be. I'm from this world, and I honestly believe in the upsides of innovation and creativity that come from entrepreneurialism. But in spite of all cool things that have been built, all the new millionaires and billionaires, and the increasingly prominent role tech plays in our culture, the startup ecosystem is unhealthy.

The data tells us that fewer new businesses are forming in the US than prior to the great recession. While VC funds hover around all-time highs, those eye-popping numbers are driven more by big pools of finance going into late-stage deals vs forming new companies. There are still plenty of great exits, but a lot of that is just mergers and acquisitions into existing Big Tech behemoths. In other words, the action is more scale and consolidation than creativity and innovation.

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