Robot Professionals [...]

We believe these are but a few early indicators of a fundamental shift in professional service. Within professional organizations (firms, schools, hospitals), we are seeing a move away from tailored, unique solutions for each client or patient towards the standardization of service. Increasingly, doctors are using checklists, lawyers rely on precedents, and consultants work with methodologies. More recently, there has been a shift to systematization, the use of technology to automate and sometimes transform the way that professional work is done — from workflow systems through to AI-based problem-solving. More fundamentally, once professional knowledge and expertise is systematized, it will then be made available online, often as a chargeable service, sometimes at no cost, and occasionally but increasingly on a commons basis, in the spirit of the open source movement. There are already many examples of online professional service.


Techno-Pastoralism [...]

Brautigan's Machines of Loving Grace imagines a world made more pastoral, quiet, and contemplative by computers:

The text was printed over an image of electric schematics and it set out a utopian vision of a techno-pastoralism, where new digital machines could return us to a prelapsarian state, at one with nature in an electric Eden.


The poem, in part:


I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

Historian Fred Turner believes the poem profoundly influenced the way people thought about tech:

As I sat with Fred Turner on a shady bench in one of Stanford's many tree-Lined quadrangles, he mused about Richard Brautigan's cybernetic meadow. 'I think there was a deep hope here to fuse the natural and the technological in a way that creates a kind of benevolent cradle for making the self,' he told me.


From the Houseboat Summit:

Timothy Leary: Now, we cannot say to this society, "Go back to a simple, tribal, pastoral existence." That's romantic. Gary Snyder: You can say "Go FORWARD to a simple, pastoral existence."


and, later:

Gary Snyder: So what I visualize is a very complex and sophisticated cybernetic technology surrounded by thick hedges of trees...Somewhere, say around Chicago. And the rest of the nation a buffalo pasture... Leary: That's very close to what I think. Snyder: ...with a large number of people going around making their own arrowheads because it's fun, but they know better ...(laughter) They know they don't have to make them. (more laughter)

Tea Kettle Tech imagines a world of peaceful technology.

Community Technology Centers’ Network [...]

From the Wikipedia entry for Antonia Stone:

Antonia "Toni" Stone (1930-2002) created the United States' first community technology centers. In 1980, Toni Stone set up Playing to Win (PTW). Playing to Win, a nonprofit organization dedicated to countering inequities in computer access. PTW looked to serve inmates and ex-offenders by teaching them computer skills and offering technical assistance to prisons and rehabilitation agencies. In 1983, Stone and PTW Corporation opened the Harlem Community Computing Center. This center was located in the basement of a Harlem housing project it provided the neighborhood with public access to personal computers. Taking advantage of the success of PTW, Stone created a network of centers known as the PTWNet. Playing to Win Network went on to form alliances with six other technology access programs in Harlem, some parts of Boston, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, by 1990. In 1992, Playing To Win was given a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation in order to provide neighborhood technology access to the northeastern United States. Three years later Stone changed the PTWNet name to the Community Technology Centers’ Network.[1] The newly named network was a national membership organization of community technology centers. Today, the CTCNet includes more than 600 member sites connected by the Internet. The network is an independent organization that provides services to 1,000 community technology centers on the country. PTW is still working to provide computer literacy programs in Harlem.

CTCNet website

Prime Vietnam Directive [...]

The Prime Directive of Star Trek (or at least the embrace of it) may have evolved out of U.S. ambivalence about Vietnam. It was part of Rodenberry's vision of "progressive humanity".

The Prime Directive of "Star Trek: TOS" is primarily a way to process America's 1960s misadventure in Vietnam. Would that more generals and chickenhawks dreamed dreams that taught them of the limits of foresight and calculation, the surprising nature of war, and the unlikelihood of success if you start by breaking things. I first recognized that "Star Trek" was a very different kind of show back in the 1960s, when at the end of "Arena" Kirk neither kills nor civilizes the Gorn, but lets him go to make his own destiny. Gene Roddenberry mostly wanted to find a way to get people to pay him to make up stories, so that we wouldn't have to take a job that required a lot of heavy lifting. But he also wanted to tell particular stories. The stories he wanted to tell were those that would be the dreamwork for a better future. He wanted to tell stories of a progressive humanity. He wanted to tell stories about people in a better future in which governmental institutions were smart enough to stay out of Vietnam and people weren't obsessed with leaky roofs and food shortages. He wanted to tell stories in which racial prejudice was as silly and stupid as it, in fact, is. He wanted to tell stories in which it would be normal for a woman to be if not #1 at least #2 as first officer of a starship. He wanted to tell stories in which everyone--even the Red Shirts--was an officer, a trained and well-educated professional treated with dignity and respect by their peers and superiors. (Source)

Sci-fi For/Against Vietnam [...]

A breakdown of science fiction writers for and against the Vietnam War from June 1968 Galaxy Magazine:

Commentary on the differences:

Looking backward at the rival camps, we may be puzzled by Pohl's inability to distinguish between either their ideologies or their conflicting roles in modern SF. For the pro-war list reads like a roll call of champions of super-science and supermen, of manly and military virtue, while the anti-war list includes almost the entire vanguard of "New Wave'' SF, profoundly hostile to technocracy, militarism, and imperialism. Yet Pohl's yearning for the vanished if not mythical community of SF also represented a wider national nostalgia. For the apparently unified, content, smiling-faced nation of the late 1950s, product of the post-war repression that had stifled almost all dissent, seemed in the process of being torn asunder by America's war in Vietnam.

Indeed, when Kate Wilhelm and Judith Merril began soliciting signatures for the anti-war statement, they had assumed that "95 percent'' of the writers would sign because of the "global and anti-racist view'' that supposedly guided SF. Surprisingly, Merril was shocked to discover that Robert Heinlein was among those who responded with vociferous declarations of "America first'' and the "US must win.''

Prime Vietnam Directive describes how the Prime Directive of Star Trek may have evolved out of American ambivalence about Vietnam.

Alibi of Photocopies [...]

Via @RoxanneShirazi, a quote from Eco: “There are many things I do not know because I photocopied a text and then relaxed as if I had read it” (Eco 1977). He calls this the "alibi of photocopies"

On social media, people are often More Willing to Share Than Read what they share.

Social Media as News Source [...]

Nearly two-thirds of adults in America now get news on social media and a fifth do so often, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, a polling outfit; the numbers continue to grow fast. (Source)

Unfortunately, people are often not selecting news, but expressing identification. See Identity Headlines, Filter Bubble

The Problem of Authority this creates might not be all bad.

Filter Bubble [...]

The version of the world presented to us in increasingly a consumer product, aimed to please rather than inform.

Algorithms such as the one that powers Facebook’s news feed are designed to give us more of what they think we want – which means that the version of the world we encounter every day in our own personal stream has been invisibly curated to reinforce our pre-existing beliefs. When Eli Pariser, the co-founder of Upworthy, coined the term “filter bubble” in 2011, he was talking about how the personalised web – and in particular Google’s personalised search function, which means that no two people’s Google searches are the same – means that we are less likely to be exposed to information that challenges us or broadens our worldview, and less likely to encounter facts that disprove false information that others have shared. Pariser’s plea, at the time, was that those running social media platforms should ensure that “their algorithms prioritise countervailing views and news that’s important, not just the stuff that’s most popular or most self-validating”. But in less than five years, thanks to the incredible power of a few social platforms, the filter bubble that Pariser described has become much more extreme. [(Source)](

On social media, Streams Don't Merge.

Examples of filter bubbles: Brexit Bubble, Sanders Filter Bubble

Filter bubbles exist outside of social media. See Party Affiliation Bubble

Maybe the real stress of social media is that we are Surprised By Disagreement

Templated Self [...]

Coined by Amber Case, the term "templated self"  describes how the affordances and defaults of systems affect online expressions of identity.

A self or identity that is produced through various participation architectures, the act of producing a virtual or digital representation of self by filling out a user interface with personal information

For example, the design of the facebook profile expresses one's identity as a combination of where you live, where you work, where you were educated, and what you like.  Audrey Watters describes how software such as learning management systems, although not explicitly social, can have some of the same identity templating effects (Link)


Literature and History and the Flynn Effect [...]

James Flynn of Flynn Effect fame thinks gains in IQ are going to waste.

In other words, our IQs may have risen, but this hasn’t made us any wiser. “Reading literature and reading history is the only thing that’s going to capitalise on the IQ gains of the 20th Century and make them politically relevant.” You may or may not agree, but Flynn is not the only person with this concern: as William Poundstone shows in his latest book Head In The Clouds, everyday ignorance is influencing the way we make decisions in many areas of our lives. Whether or not Flynn will persuade young people to pick up a book, there’s no doubting that he has forever changed our views of intelligence. “Today I think I’m leaving a field where you can write genuine cognitive history,” he says – meaning that we can finally track and explain the ways the mind has changed and responded to our environment over time. [(Source)](

Article also discusses weird fact of IQ Gains Missed because researchers were so convinced intelligence was fixed.