Cambrian Moment

My friend and colleague John Seely Brown gave a speech yesterday that really lifted my spirits. He said we are in a Cambrian Moment with a whole new tool set consisting of Cloud Computing; Graphic processing chips/systems;Social Networks; Big Data Analytics engines that allow us to do extremely granular sentiment analysis; The rise of the second screen and the Ubiquitous computing environment that John and his colleagues at Xerox PARC described in 1991; Transmedia and its many logics; 5D Immersive Design. As John said, “each one of these is a big deal, but together they create awesome opportunities and also awesome disruptions.”

Unlike JSB, I am only an aspiring polymath, and so I had to research the Cambrian explosion that John uses as his metaphor for our current moment. The Cambrian Explosion was the sudden appearance around 530 million years ago of a huge number of forms of animal life. In other words an explosion of evolutionary progress.

Now I had been prepared for this burst of optimism late last week by a visit from our erstwhile correspondent Alex Bowles. Like John, Alex was brimming over with evolutionary optimism. He felt that technology (many of them on John’s list) would lead us to a new age of transparency where bad actors would have a hard time hiding from the 99%.That our ability to literally “see” how much carbon was pouring out the smokestacks of Koch Industries, would embarrass even the most heartless oligarch into cleaning up his mess.

As readers of this blog well know, I have been saying since 2007 that we are in an Interregnum, a period where “the old is dying, and the new cannot yet be born”. It could be that JSB’s Cambrian Moment signals the end of the Interregnum. At the Lab I run, the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, we have been working on most of the technologies on JSB’s list  and I would say we lead the field in three of his categories: Transmedia, Big Data Analytics and the Second Screen. But our challenge is to move beyond technology and create context for these new tools. As John said in his Stanford Commencement address

We are now, again, in a moment where we need to think of world building but now of a new kind. It is a moment that is not only about making amazing things. Perhaps, also, for the first time we can make contexts as easily as we make content/things. And as all of you here know, shaping contexts allows the emergence of meaning in powerful new ways – for better or for worse. But in addition to having a new arsenal of tools for shaping meaning we now have ways to create a networked imagination – one that emerges around joint action.

Well I hope JSB is right. That this sudden Cambrian explosion of new capabilities will lift us out of this paralyzing Interregnum. If he is right, I think a lot of the new ideas will come out of what my Dean, Ernest Wilson calls The Quad; creative partnerships between public, private, civil and academic sectors. If we take our task of world building seriously, the next few decades could be amazing.

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27 Responses to Cambrian Moment

  1. len says:

    Forty million years and a mild climate, the tales of the fall of Rodinia….

    It requires an environment that enables local feedback to be insulated from global feedback or amplified by it. The optimist claims we will respond by accepting new forms. The pessimist says resistors have to be overcome before novelties are allowed to reproduce. Sometimes it results in a more diverse sustainable population. Sometimes it results in a massive die off of existing forms followed by a wasteland with only a few hearty survivors.

    50 years ago we had a musical culture full of many forms all vieing for attention on a tightly controlled network of radio stations. Today we have thousands of channels full of the blues. Why?

  2. Anonymous says:

    And the Facebook phenom just laid out a billion something-or-others to “buy” what, again? The fad draw of Instagram? Go look in the skunk-works swamp that is DARPA and check out the War Department’s New Contracts web page, and if you can see them, the RFPs from our nascent Stasi, to see what magical innovations are actually the real strange attractors that will be most likely drawing all that Innovative Energy, right off the top, bottom and sides of the Quad (so evocative of ivy-covered walls, elm-shaded sidewalks, parsing of classical insights, and gentle reasoning together on the benches and behind the KeepOffTheGrass signs…)

    Is there a paradigm in mind for this Brave New World, a spiritual axis as it were, or is it just to be a post-Cambrian explosion of speciation, carnivorization and jungle drums? Like that pic of the delirious owners of the Instagram phenom, post-closing on the Transaction, with its invitation to the inflation of yet another fad.com bubble?

  3. JTMcPhee says:

    @Anonymous
    Missed that my id info got deleted somewhere. No sense blaming Anon for my work.

  4. len says:

    What do bilateral cephaloids and the shape of Toyotas have in common, JTMc? In an environment, a form will eventually emerge that is most fit in that form for that function. If you can get a system lock on that design, you get to keep all the money that others don’t steal. As long as the environment doesn’t change, you can keep them coming. The problem for Jon is the mechanisms of divergence and recombination are the very mechanisms they want to suppress (see copyrights and mashups). IOW, they do their best to kill the very things they say they espouse. And weirdly, don’t think anyone notices.

    Technological mysticism is a religion of innovation in service of getting and keeping all of the profits made off selling us stuff we actually don’t need. It is the naturalistic fallacy of our age. Brown is one of the notable prophets. Do you really need cloud computing and the massive energy consuming server farms to tell you how people feel about events? Really? Are you like the weatherman who has all the best technology but won’t step outside and look up? Those cheap signs being posted on FB tell you all you need to know.

    If an artist has a unique sound, you sell the artist. When you can’t tell one song from another, you sell the style. When the artist runs out of unique sounds, you sell roots. There’s nothing morally wrong with it. It’s about keeping revenues coming to the same bank accounts.

  5. Fentex says:

    I find it hard to reconcile such enthusiasm with support for laws that block innovation and demand the Internet be a constant monitor of all for the powerful and privileged.

    We already live in an environment where the truth is available on a number of things that don’t seem to penetrate many peoples conscious thoughts and where choice on shop shelves does more to cripple peoples decisions than help them.

    I find it hard to understand techno utopian attitudes because they seem to skirt carelessly over the realities of life and the need to understand principles because, it seems to me, utopians act on faith and proceed blindly.

    Take care of now and the future will take care of itself.

    Ignore the current diffilcult questions in the hope future magic will cover mistakes and the future will bury you in an early grave.

  6. itsaboutgood says:

    You Can’t Stop the Dawn.

    We are coming to a full realization that this human experience is a collective dream.

    That we are free indivduals with God-given rights to conscience, reason, and self-discipline that can’t be taken away if we defend ourselves. 2012 will be a major tipping point in a higher understanding of our purpose and power.

    Technology is thought externalized – we are now, more than ever, responsible as members of this genus of species – man – for the well-being of our neighbors. No more excuses. The awakening is now.

  7. Jon Taplin says:

    @itsaboutgoo-Well said.

    I do think we are at an interregnum moment where everything is up for grabs. the next 8 months are going to be really interesting.

  8. John Papola says:

    That our ability to literally “see” how much carbon was pouring out the smokestacks of Koch Industries, would embarrass even the most heartless oligarch into cleaning up his mess.

    Why must everything you write, no matter how interesting or uplifting, be ruined by a veneer of useless, caricature partisan tropes and bull? Sheesh.

  9. John Papola says:

    ps… it’s gonna take a WHOLE LOT of energy to power our wonderful digital future. We aren’t about to escape the need for smokestacks anytime soon… unless of course we adopt the anti-human regressive policies of the global “environmental” ideologues, the outcome of which would be to abort the entire digital revolution.

    The best thing in the world that will come from our glorious cloud future is the ongoing empowerment, slowly but (hopefully) surely, of the bottom billion and their beautiful brains. There’s a cancer cure out there somewhere in the 7 billion people on this planet. Bringing as many of them into modernity (with all of the carbon usage that goes with that) is the best hope for us all to live better than ever. The 100 million plus who’ve been lifted out of poverty in Asia over the past two decades is just the beginning of the real miracle.

    So the question for the future is this: will you be on the side of progressive for all, or on the side retro-grade anachronisms who foolishly see this revolution as a threat to “our jobs” or a malthusian doomsday for “our natural resources” and other easily debunked populist fallacies being spewed by demagogues on the left and right?

  10. JTMcPhee says:

    @John Papola
    Love those serial binary choices. Falsely equivalent to each other, and to reality.

    Maybe one of those beautiful brains will invent an actual device that will let you transport back through time, to maybe the early days of the Industrial Revolution with its murderous labor practices and unbreatheable air, and Scottish Voluntary-Association Reputation-Conserving Bankers and their beautiful walnut paneling and swingeing interest rates, and those straight-backed pews in all those Scottish Rite Presbyterian churches, where Calvin preached his pernicious tripe. Bet you would feel right at home there.

    The only thing the “bottom billion” is good for, for those people like the Kochs whose “reputation” you are so apparently concerned about, is to generate a little wealth that the Kochs, et al., can turn into rental payments on options like food and potable water. (Some of them, here in FL, have managed to use “the system” to make us local mopes chip in $21 billion in “advance construction payments” for a nuclear plant that will likely never be built, and another $9 billion to pay to “fix” a plant that the arrogant shits who run the company fuc#ed up by thinking they were smart enough to cut an arbitary hole in the stressed-concrete containment structure to fit in some new equipment. And of course the TEPCO folks are still blowing smoke, and “radioactive particles:” http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/04/fukushima-dai-ichi-no-4-an-earthquake-before-spent-fuel-rods-are-moved-to-safe-storage-would-be-the-end.html . )

    Not so many years ago, it was a matter of faith, among people who share your apparent viewpoint, that “progress” equals “the amount of energy a society uses,” and that energy use will increase geometrically on the way to something-or-other… Based on the curious, spurious assumption that Science and Engineering in the Gilded Future will “take care of” all those nagging, inconvenient externalities like “pollution” and “financialization” and all that kind of stuff. No amount of “voluntary associating” will keep this planet habitable, at a level most of us might find comfortable. Let alone the other species…

    Maybe your “beautiful brains” will also come up with a super-light drive that will let people with your notion of consumption do like the aliens in “Independence Day,” grinding from world to world, killing and eating. Maybe the Soylent Corporation has a place for you…

    Why keep picking on Jon? Worried that this blog might be one drop too many in the clepsydra, keeping it from tipping back into the Gilded Age? Not to worry, big fella — the Takers, the Wealth Concentrators if you will, have all the ammo.

    So much dogma you manage to inject, into so little text — it’s amazing. Really, I can’t wait to see what you pack into your next video.

  11. John Papola says:

    @JTMcPhee

    If you want to lament a time of “murderous labor practices”, why do you ignore all of pre-industrial history? The building of the pyramids was murderous. Single family farming was murderous. Hunter/gatherer life was really murderous. Living in caves? Murderous.

    You exist in the world of the nirvana fallacy, JT, where somehow we can dismiss that for tens of thousands of years human life was miserable and murderous for most people in a way that made those surely-nasty factory jobs look like ray of hope in the darkness. And the forces which have lifted modern life out of those factories are innovation and productivity, which allowed machines to destroy those jobs while radically increasing output, thus giving rise to newer, nicer, higher paying jobs.

    We only have “cloud computing engine” as a job today because prior beautiful brains destroyed all of those nasty jobs with robots and machines. And the same natural forces of human creativity and drive which lifted us up will lift up the bottom billion on this planet… Unless the warmongers, global climate tax fraudsters, government and corporate cronies stall it while ripping us off.

    I keep “picking on Jon” because I find his partisan campaign rhetoric democratic party talking points to be a stain on his otherwise interesting ideas and thoughts. I see him playing into the worst tribalism when he panders about the allegedly evil “Koch Brothers” in almost every post. It’s all a sham game. Obama sucks. Jon should stop wasting his time using the party play book for blog material.

  12. JTMcPhee says:

    @John Papola
    What is YOUR “nirvana fallacy,” big fella? That your magical “voluntary associations” will somehow result in anything different than what we have now? That your mythical Hayekian Paradise will somehow be effectuated by demolishing All That Is and somehow instituting a magical government that creates and operates a precision-guided legal system and enforcement structure that limits itself to just defining and protecting property and contract “rights” against “coercion and fraud?”

    YOU are the quintessential nirvanist, kind of by your own admission, since you acknowledge repeatedly that you are contending for an “ideal” that I bet even you know, in your dark hours, and have said here, is an impossibility, and if you could somehow actually invoke the demons that would effectuate your notions of policy, you would find yourself (unless you worked it out so you were one of the rulers or courtiers inside the Castle) living another kind of nightmare. YOU are the one who tells us that All Is Always Improving, if only “we” could get rid of the Powers That Be, who, mirabile dictu, just happen to espouse and live by so many of the tenets of your personal econofaith.

    Tell you what: It sure seems interesting that you would invoke the existence of some “natural force of human creativity and drive” that’s supposedly “lifted us up” to the elevated state that “we,” whoever you include in that collective, supposedly enjoy. What would one call it: “positivism?” http://www.nlnrac.org/critics/legal-positivism Glad you have your set of enemies clearly in view, and I might even be tempted to name some of the same. But your prescription, as I have averred before, is a lot like ordering a heavy dose of hemlock for a patient with a nervous disorder…

    There’s never been a Golden Age, but there’s been many a Gilded Age, where your “bottom billions” get screwed worse than ever. Your “ideal” has not a prayer of installing a set of behaviors that would get “us” anything more than a set of predatory, “government-like organizations,” kind of like what’s described here: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-i-%E2%80%93the-vision.html Any parts of the “vision” of “Code Name Cain” you find fault with, or any major differences with the organizational premises laid out in that series of interviews? (Good choice for the pseudonym: As reported in the Book of Genesis, Cain’s words to G_d were, after doing murder, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”)

    And geez, for one who complains about “ad hominemia,” and dislikes critiques of your zealous attachment to your “ideals,” you sure got a rough way with anyone with respect to whom you can attach one of that long set of pejoratives, reminiscent of all the applications of various Currently Deemed Absolutely True Articles of Faith that so readily fell to hand for Inquisitors in centuries gone by, that come so ready to hand for you..

  13. Alex Bowles says:

    @itsaboutgood Here’s something you may appreciate. It’s a post by Lebbeus Woods called “Rules of the Game”. He’s describing design in general, and architecture in particular, but he’s doing so from a perspective that pertains to so much more.

    For the city in the most stable, developed countries, the greatest challenge today is to create a ground for individual human beings, one that not only supports their legal and economic and environmental rights, but nurtures their sense of autonomy and at the same time of responsibility, in a personal way, toward others. The way to do this is to show people, by example, that their autonomy—their freedom—is dependent on the autonomy of others. That is a fact of the human condition. I cannot be free unless those I live with are also free.

    If I could sketch out for architects a task list addressing the urgent problems of cities in the developed countries, it would certainly include—at the top of the list—the design of spaces serving human complexity and diversity in new ways.

    To design such spaces, architects will have to abandon stereotypes of the design process as well as the product of design. Old ideas of the master architect, who holds tight control of the final product will necessarily give way to the magister ludi, an orchestrator of the game. The design game, a very serious and consequential one, will involve many people, with diverse interests, all of which must find their place in the urban field; it cannot be played with pre-determined goals and fixed rules. All is in flux. Yet this cannot mean anything goes, quite the contrary.

    Operating in the space between fixed order and unbridled chaos—and this is what has not yet happened in practice—the architect of the urban field must work continually to design and revise the rules of the game. As this is accomplished, others can design particular spaces without sacrificing the integrity of guiding principles. The constructed results will be the outcome of a complex collaboration, which we can only begin to visualize at present.

    I find this fascinating because it pertains to so many issues in network culture. Platform architecture has a huge influence on what happens within it. At the same time, platforms thrive only when they support some a level of autonomy which has enough strength to influences the platform itself. Sustaining an arrangement like this depends, in large part, on the feedback loops that the system contains.

    What I find so exciting is the quality and distribution of the feedback loops that are starting to emerge. At at time when our democracy seems hideously captured, and people feel justifiably disenfranchised by the toxic blockage in our existing channels of democratic control of governance, the development of tools and cultures that make autonomy increasingly viable signals an epochal change.

    It’s no wonder that these developments have attracted terribly negative attention from those who are less interested in serving the public, and more interested in having the public serve them. And I can’t imagine that they’ll remain idle while the instruments of their demise proliferate. At the same time, they’ve depended so heavily on the rhetoric of individual freedom and progress (while allowing actual incomes to stagnate for decades) that they’ll have a hard time maintaining their authority and the status quo at the same time.

    Something has to give.

  14. Fentex says:

    The building of the pyramids was murderous.

    As a minor quibble; No, they weren’t (especially m urderous that is).

    Many people assume, because of their antiquity, that the building of the Pyramids must have been a horrendous exploitation of starving slave labour. It is a mistaken assumption.

    While Egypt did practice slavery it was more of a type of indentured servitude of people with some rights rather than the merciless exploitation of unprotected rightless non-people.

    The building of the Pyramids was not unlike a modern jobs bill that provided a state funded operation around which economic activity orbited.

    Possibly for an ultimately non-productive result, although Egyptians today continue to benefit from the three and half thousand year old investment.

  15. JTMcPhee says:

    @Fentex
    C’mon, Fentex — don’t attempt to insert any facts into this discussion… It’s so much more fun working from First Principles and Matters of Faith.

  16. John Papola says:

    JT,

    A perfectly moral world is an impossibility. Does that mean we should cease the effort to be moral people and to advocate morality? We’ll never end murder. Does that mean we should stop opposing it?

    Ideals have value. Idealism has value. Adhering to it and espousing it does too.

    Idealism is not utopianism. Saying that “violence is wrong” is not the same thing as claiming that we can end all violence with this or that policy. I am not a utopian. I don’t expect there to ever be a world that matches my ideals anymore than I expect violence to cease on earth.

  17. John Papola says:

    @Fentex
    Fentex,

    Are you suggesting that the work on the egyptian pyramids was less “murderous” than the work JT is decrying as part of the industrial revolution?

    And while it’s lovely that we’ve got those stone shrines to state power today, and they are amazing to be sure, Egypt was certainly poorer for it at the time, not richer. Those indentured servants could have been building goods and services that were actually useful to others instead of inverted ditches. Keynes was wrong on pyramid building.

  18. rhbee says:

    @John Papola
    Wow, having morals and bragging about it, isn’t that so religulous? Meanwhile, the cloud of anticipation is irrelevant. Nothing has changed in this arguement or at this blog since I first posted my comments about Marat/Sade three years ago. “In a revolution each man (sic) keeps what he values”

  19. Fentex says:

    Are you suggesting that the work on the egyptian pyramids was less “murderous” than the work JT is decrying as part of the industrial revolution?

    I was only objecting to the description of building the pyramids as murderous because I thought it misrepresents Egypts society.

    But thinking about it I don’t think there would have been much difference. Much of what makes modern life pleasant didn’t exist until the later nineteenth century including things as simple as good sewerage to protect from the same diseases that would have afflicted Egyptians and the harsh dangerous labour of navies or working looms and in mines wouldn’t have differed much from hauling stones along rolling logs or chipping away in quarrys.

    The best we’ve received from the industrial revolution came to us in the twentieth century and most of our wealth has come from the energy density of oil.

    So I think if someone compares life from before we reaped the benefits to the times before hand, well, I don’t think they differed all that much in general.

    But that’s not really the question is it? The question is what created the wealth we now enjoy? Was it just the inevitable flowering of technology once the feedback of ideas and industry reached the ramp of exponential growth – or was it neccessary to have an economic order optimal to exploit invention to enable the technological expansion?

    The answer to that question (apart from possibly being another option I didn’t mention) needn’t dictate choices to us now anyway. A lot of the past that made us couldn’t have happened any other way and that doesn’t recommend Greek oppression of women to us merely because their society cemented many formative concepts in our history.

  20. JTMcPhee says:

    @John Papola
    Yah, there’s that “morals” word, which has such a huge bundle of steaming rhetoric and bloodshed trailing along behind it. I bet the meanest “traditionalist” little-boy-screwer in Notagainistan has got “morals,” along with people like Henry Ford who had “morals” to impel others to abide by and the means to impose them. What you mean by “morals,” White Man? Your preferences, your behaviors or at least the tenets and acquired noises that you (and the rest of us) use to order our thinking about our behaviors (with the seeds of excuse and apologia and and clemency and absolution for our “falling aways?”)

    I read something that suggests the people who worked on the Pyramids might have had some idea that by doing so, they were taking part in the ascent to their version of heaven and moral order. My bet is that a lot of the folks entombed with the dear departed pharaohs really thought they were going to be serving wine to the Moral Gods in the afterlife. My bet is that the people forced (by combinations of circumstance, like the creation of the notions of “capital” and changes in the “ideals” and “morals” regarding property and related rights and government policies and enclosures of the various commons and development of world trade and coal mining and iron making and Jacquard looms, inter alia) into company towns under rack-rents, to labor in the mills and mines and enclosed fields, had maybe a hard time buying the stuff their Church of England preachers assured them was God’s Moral Order. Various revolutions and Luddite outbreaks and such, not to mention the scribblings of Charles Dickens, and others who sold maybe a ‘higher morals” set of tales.

    Not to worry about all that, of course — as I am sure you know, the People Who Have Concentrated Almost All The Wealth have a huge upper hand, and are selling “morals” at a nominal discount, albeit with a very heavy hand, force-feeding the rabble via FOX and other excretory sphincters. And what I sense of your “morals” is that that word is just a neutral descriptor that you add a normative burden to, as justification for all the rest…

  21. len says:

    Something has to give.

    Something always does. Knowing what that will be is the trick and the trickster is powerfully poised to keep it a secret. The data farms are not nearly as persuasive as the breakup of the ice sheets in Antartica. The evidence is there for all to see. And we are still debating global warming. The will to stay ignornant in service of status is every bit the network effect with entrenched control loops amplified by the same technologies. What they cannot overcome are those increasingly destructive tornadic storms gathering in the heartland earlier and more frequently every season. Frequency and amplitude, Alex, frequency and amplitude. Communication and control are a game of probable choices.

    Old ideas of the master architect, who holds tight control of the final product will necessarily give way to the magister ludi, an orchestrator of the game. The design game, a very serious and consequential one, will involve many people, with diverse interests, all of which must find their place in the urban field; it cannot be played with pre-determined goals and fixed rules. All is in flux. Yet this cannot mean anything goes, quite the contrary.

    Oh, you mean Karl Rove? The wand may pick the wizard but the wizard picks the spell.

    Be optimistic but very careful with technological mysticism. At the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic the surprising conclusion is that Thomas Andrews and Harlan and Wolfe did an excellent job of designing and building her and that in fact, E.J. Smith was right in the pocket of professional common practice. Sometimes the forces at hand overwhelm the best we can confront them with and the credit is not that the ship doesn’t sink or that the majority perish but that those who survive do.

  22. JTMcPhee says:

    @len
    Re morals, the fortuity of survival and all that: Maybe Murphy was the person with the biggest hand in the “accident” of the Titanic’s sinking, and maybe he had something to do with the Costa Concordia, too. http://abcnews.go.com/International/cruise-ship-captain-detained-sinking/story?id=15361760#.T4w0edly_Ak Captain Smith might have been cruising to “standards of practice,” but he knew there was ice in the room, and pride, of the hubris kind, might have entered in. “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

    But the after-action reports make it pretty clear that much-too-human dysbehavior had a lot to do with who survived and how many died. Half-empty lifeboats (insufficient to accommodate all souls on board in any event,) of the ones that could be launched at all given the design-to-legal-standard and the failure of so many systems, human and electromechanical, and of course “moral” preferences for “women and children first” (86% of 2nd class women and kids made it into the boats, only 14% of the 2nd class men — that telling phrase — survived) and gee, how many of the Morally Superior Nobility, maybe even freed from “survivor guilt” by the strength of their “moral convictions,” managed to find a comfortable spot afloat after the great ship went down, relative to the Lesser Breeds? And the officers on the boats were “reluctant” to row in and pull survivors from the hypothermic water, even though the night was pretty calm. Et Cetera.

    Look for the silver lining, but like the folks in the middle of the country, make sure you got an easily reachable storm shelter when those green clouds start rotating…

    And Euripides had another little fragment to offer, from “Bellerophon:”

    Doth some one say that there be gods above?
    There are not; no, there are not. Let no fool,
    Led by the old false fable, thus deceive you.
    Look at the facts themselves, yielding my words
    No undue credence: for I say that kings
    Kill, rob, break oaths, lay cities waste by fraud,
    And doing thus are happier than those
    Who live calm pious lives day after day. All divinity
    Is built-up from our good and evil luck.

  23. len says:

    @JTMcPhee

    And that is at the crux: technology is not moral. It works or it doesn’t. Justice is not natural. We do it or we don’t.

    The Cambrian Moment was many millions of years long during which any lazy idea had a chance at coming to form. What no one mentions is most of those forms died out and few that didn’t still exist in that form. The climate changes.

    So JSB’s assertion comes down to “a climate change” and I’m not sure he’s right. A change of scale (lots more stuff) is not a change of climate (new stuff because there is room or energy). When the web popped, we knew it was a change because relatively new forms (about 50 years old at the time of the web coalescence) were dropped into a pretty barren landscape (the internet). For a period of time, it was innovation du jour or appeared to be (mostly it was recycling and rebranding for the sake of IP owners). Then almost as fast as it started, it stopped, or went to the front of the cycle and restarted much slower.

    IOW, the web’s Cambrian moment was 20 years ago and we are still in it. If there are specific mechanisms at work here, I’d like to see those referenced. Links? URLs?

    As I type this, over at XML-Dev they are having a discussion of concepts that were formal and powerful when introduced at the beginning of the web coalescence. These ideas were rejected as too abstract, too hard, or not our ideas. As a result, twenty years on these ideas are still gurgitating and regurgitating and while still powerful, they still have not found an irresistably compelling reason for everyone to change enough implemented systems to adopt them.

    Thus I say to Alex and WhosisWiththePoeticVision, until you see a difference that makes a difference by requiring a difference, technology is just stuff and we have lots of stuff. The soap opera that is human existence is very much like what JTMc describes: the technology did not fail. The technologists did not fail. Dumb luck, arrogance and the forces of nature won.

    Show me the appl that convinces a tea partier that evolution is not just a way, it is the only way. Then I’ll show you the wireless messages about ice further south and later in the seaon than typical.

    Information is not enough.

  24. len says:

    And then some really sad news on Facebook:

    Levon Helm
    Dear Friends,
    Levon is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey. …

    Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration… he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage…

    We appreciate all the love and support and concern.
    From his daughter Amy, and wife Sandy

    :(

  25. len says:

    Levon, see you in the light, as one friend remarked. Crying here but “only tears of joy”

    He defended Southerners when others would not. He did not share our dark heritage, He celebrated it remaining true to what is best in the Southern soul, a deep belief in God’s love for all of us. And the tracks he left are… authentic and soul ful and hell raisin’ all at the same time. Thanks!

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