Toward a Better Programming
Imagine what it would be like if virtually everyone with a computer could command it to do even 80% of what a programmer can today. What would the impact of that be? I haven't the slightest idea, but the more I've considered it the more I've realized it would be a fundamental shift in what we as a collective would be capable of and that's certainly a fascinating thing to consider. In the long run, I do believe manipulating computers will be a fundamental skill, but unlike most of the "programming is literacy!" movements lately, I think it'll have very little to do with writing out ‘if’ statements.
The average person that knows how to use Excel today has the same or more power than most of the programmers in the 80s. In 20 years from now the average person will be able to do incredible things with their devices. As programming gets easier and easier for for people other than computer science majors, the explosion of technology in society is going to grow tremendously. Even though this is sometimes heralded as the golden age of technology, we are just getting started.
The Plague of Passivity
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.
~ Neil Postman
With all of the news and confusion regarding the leaks about the NSA, I've been thinking a lot about 1984 and it's relation to present society. I don't think it is the most accurate prediction of where we have come, and where we are going. Sure there is the very strong possibility that the government is watching every move we make, or at least storing the information somewhere. Also, the likelihood of punishing people for crimes that haven't even committed yet, just using computers instead of precogs, is increasing every year. While I believe this should be worrisome, and a very dark indication of what is to come, it isn't what I am most scared of.
I'm scared by the fact that nobody seems to care.
The response of 'I don't have anything to hide', is damaging in more ways than just being a passive endorsement of these new measures. It helps enforce the stigma that anyone who thinks this is wrong does have something to hide. It can easily lead to it becoming socially unacceptable to have secrets of your own. In Huxley's A Brave New World the citizens couldn't grasp any idea that wasn't superficial, and they had to follow a specific set of actions, not because of an evil government force, but due to the force of society.
I do believe that we can keep government in check. We aren't going to get to a situation similar to 1984 because people will not be suppressed against their will. However, we can't do anything against the will of society. It is already evolving towards the vision in a A Brave New World. Passivity to our current situation and what other entities are doing around us is a far greater threat than anything the government could possibly do. We can overthrow governments, however, we can't overthrow ourselves. We need to remain aware of the freedoms we should have, and the rules we enforce upon ourselves and every single other member of society. While we like to think that we aren't affected by other's opinions, they do have a very strong impact on the rest of society. For example, just 50 years ago people wouldn't come out as being homosexual. Not necessarily because they were scared of what a government might do to them, but because they would be ostracized by the rest of society. We need to be aware of these types of issues and not let ourselves create the dystopian future. It isn't going to come forced from the government above, it will come from within our own ranks.
Why won't Bitcoin die?
"What is the definition of the death of Bitcoin?" said Mike Caldwell, the creator of Casascius Coins. "Bitcoin is two things. It’s a community, and it’s a technology. The only way for Bitcoin to die is for people to lose interest in using it. No matter what the attacks are, there’s always going to be a way around them. Because Bitcoin is just today’s embodiment of the idea that we now have the technology to democratize money. So long as there is a demand for that, the only way I see Bitcoin dying is for it to be a predecessor to something else that does a better job."
I highly doubt that Bitcoin will ever become mainstream. While a lot of people have heard of the term, I don't see any way for adoption to range beyond the hacker culture that prizes anonymity and freedom from the government. Honestly the normal people just don't care. In the long run either the market will settle, which will cement Bitcoin as a viable alternative currency, not just a way to get rich of a volatile market, or interest will fade and people will just stop caring.
"'If you ever read sci-fi, it’s like creds,' said Jeff Garzik, an early Bitcoin developer who is moving his family from Raleigh to Atlanta to take a job at BitPay. Neutral galactic currency is a common trope in fiction, and Bitcoin is its first manifestation outside of a videogame." I don't see any situation where it becomes widespread enough to be a neutral currency that is country independent. Unless something drastic happens that results in a massive shift in demand, there isn't a market in the mainstream.
The Verge: Facebook Home Review
Of course, not every status update is a beautiful image or amusing bon mot. We all have friends who post garbage we don't really care about on Facebook and having that garbage on your lockscreen can be a jarring experience. For every baby photo and landscape scene, there was a fleeting image of my ex wife or an ill-informed political rant. Unfortunately, getting these images off of your homescreen is a trial, because you can't directly hide something in Cover Feed. Instead, you need to go to the Facebook app itself and hunt down the offending post, then hide it there. Cover Feed definitely got me using Facebook more, but part of my increased usage included unfollowing a bunch of people's updates. Sorry, but there are really only so many pictures of omelets I need to see on a Sunday morning, and most of them I don't really want on my homescreen.
This is the main problem I have with the idea of Facebook Home. While the design is very well done, and it looks really good when they demo it, I know that my friends' content won't match. The vast majority of my friends don't post pictures that I want on my lock screen. I don't want to turn on my phone and have to explain why some random girl's Florida bikini pictures are the background on my lock screen. I like the idea, and I can see many people using it, but I have the feeling this will put just as many people off.
Samsung Announces Galaxy Mega 5.8 and 6.3
Samsung has finally revealed its latest oversized smartphones, the Galaxy Mega 5.8 and 6.3. Larger than even Samsung's enormous 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2
At what point does this just get ridiculous? I can kind of understand the desire for a phone the size of the Galaxy Note, but a 6.3-inch phone just seems a bit excessive. At that point you are just carrying a 3G tablet with you. I'm curious how these devices will sell. Skeptics of the Note were quickly proven wrong by its immediate success, maybe people just want to carry around a huge phone. However, these appear to be lower end than the Note, which is an interesting choice. With a larger phone, it should be easier to put better hardware in for cheaper, since you aren't as concerned about space.
However, this, along with the success of the Note and larger Android phones, shows that Apple may need to release a larger version of the iPhone. Even with the iPhone 5 being 4-inches, it still seems tiny in comparison, and I know several people who are considering an Android phone due to this. Due to some features in iOS 6, namely AutoLayout, I wouldn't be surprised if they released a larger phone in addition to the 4-inch model, and I'm not alone. The market definitely exists, but will they go after it?