MonthSeptember 2014

Mutation Vectors: Tech Hell Edition

office-space

Status Update

Up is down and down is up. That’s the default “natural” setting on my new MacBook Pro’s trackpad. As a long-time Windows and Linux user, I find that this perfectly sums up the entirety of the Apple experience for me thus far.

See below for my Apple and Linux rants for more on my current experience of tech-hell. But first, a run down of why Twitter has started to suck for many people.

Browsing

I’ve got a ton of stuff in Pocket for reading, perhaps over the weekend, but I don’t have much for you today. But I did really enjoy’s Alan Jacob’s sequence of posts on the state of Twitter, which hits many of my own issues with the Twitter right now, and a few others besides:

I’m not so famous or female that I get inundated with harassment on my timeline, but I do find myself yearning for more granularity in terms of what I see and share.

Many of my friends are nostalgic for Live Journal, which did indeed do a good job of providing that granularity. But I’d hazard a guess that most of us have far more connections on Twitter and Facebook today than we did on LiveJournal in, say, 2005. That makes trying to deal with grouping friends a much more daunting task, especially if you’re starting with a big list of basically everyone you know and need to figure out which groups to put each person in.

Today Google Plus and Facebook offer similar features for publishing posts visible only to only pre-defined groups of people, but I don’t know how widely used they are. And the hassle of trying to categorize a couple-few hundred people into neat groups is a big part of what keeps me from bothering with those features.

Still, if we were able to share stuff on Twitter based on Lists (remember those?), maybe that would be something. Though I’m not sure I’d be willing to spend the time to make a bunch of new lists — I pretty much gave up on that idea back in 2010 or 2011 when Twitter hid that functionality and us worry that it would go away entirely.

Which is another part of the problem: we have no idea which new Facebook or Twitter features will stick around more than a couple months. Why spend time getting used to something when some A/B tester might say “hey, this feature isn’t getting enough traction, let’s hide it to stream line the interface and move those engineering resources elsewhere”?

The indie web can potentially help solve the disappearing feature problem (though most of us will still be at the mercy of what the developers of the software we depend on decide to do). But it could also make granularity more difficult, at least without some widely adopted decentralized authentication system.

(Or we could all just start multiple different e-mail newsletters…)

Watching

On brighter note: season 8 of The Trailer Park Boys just hit Netflix!

Listening

On a darker note, in a good way: Earth’s new album Primitive and Deadly is out!

Continue reading

The Next Stage for Google’s Quantum Computing Efforts

New from me at Wired:

Google launched its Quantum A.I. Lab last year to test a machine called the D-Wave Two, an intriguing but controversial system that its makers bill as a quantum computer, and it believes quantum computing could play a key role in so many of its future ambitions, from self-driving cars and other robots to better predictive analytics systems for products like Google Now to things we haven’t even dreamed up yet. Thanks to what’s called the superposition principle of quantum mechanics, it could process data for such projects at speeds that are exponentially faster than what you get from today’s machines.

But the scientific community has greeted the D-Wave machine with skepticism, questioning whether the machine is actually a quantum computer at all, and whether it can actually provide something you can’t get from conventional machines. In joining Google, Martinis lends new weight to the company’s quantum ambitions.

Full Story: Wired: The Man Who Will Build Google’s Elusive Quantum Computer

Mindful Cyborgs: R.U. Sirius on Counter Culture, Quantified Self and More

R.U. Sirius

This week Chris Dancy and I talked with former Mondo 2000 editor and Counter Culture Through the Ages co-author R.U. Sirius about counter culture, quantified self and his forthcoming book Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity.

Next week we’ll post the second part of our conversation, where we dive a bit deeper into the state of Transhumanism, plus gab about identity and 90s nostalgia.

Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Counterculture, The Singularity, and the Amish with R. U. Sirius pt 1

Previously

My interview with R.U. from 2002

My interview with R.U. and Disinfo founder Richard Metzger from 2011

Treehouse Builds a 21st Century Trade School for Coders

Ryan Carson of Treehouse

So you know how Technoccult has been slow for the past couple months? That’s in large part because I spent most of my time outside of work writing this cover story for Oregon Business:

Treehouse tutorials have already been used by Umatilla high schools and several private “learn to code” programs, such as Portland’s Epicodus. But Carson’s ambitions go far beyond meeting sales and marketing targets. He aims to do nothing less than revolutionize higher education by providing everything students need to land a job in the tech industry — without ever setting foot in a classroom.

“We’re trying to remove the need to go to college,” he says.

It’s an audacious project. In fact, some might say Carson is not so much naive as full of hubris, a trait that has become synonymous with startup tech executives, in Portland and Silicon Valley. And yet all signs suggest higher education is ripe for transformation.

Nationwide, 53% of recent college graduates were either unemployed or had jobs that didn’t require a college degree, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data published in 2012. That’s partially due to the 38% increase in the number of people under 25 who had at least a bachelor’s degree between 2000 and 2012, The Atlantic reports. But even as the competitive benefit of a degree has declined, tuition has skyrocketed. Tuition at Oregon’s seven public universities more than doubled from $3,507 to $8,305 between 2000 and the 2014, rising far faster than the rate of inflation.

Full Story: Oregon Business: College Hacker

4chan Spawns an Open Source, Encrypted Skype Alternative, But Can You Trust It?

Tox

My latest for Wired:

The web forum 4chan is known mostly as a place to share juvenile and, to put it mildly, politically incorrect images. But it’s also the birthplace of one of the latest attempts to subvert the NSA’s mass surveillance program.

When whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that full extent of the NSA’s activities last year, members of the site’s tech forum started talking about the need for a more secure alternative to Skype. Soon, they’d opened a chat room to discuss the project and created an account on the code hosting and collaboration site GitHub and began uploading code.

Full Story: Wired: Hackers Build a Skype That’s Not Controlled by Microsoft

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