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robertogreco : mooreslaw   8

Web Design - The First 100 Years
"Today I hope to persuade you that the same thing that happened to aviation is happening with the Internet. Here we are, fifty years into the computer revolution, at what feels like our moment of greatest progress. The outlines of the future are clear, and oh boy is it futuristic.

But we're running into physical and economic barriers that aren't worth crossing.

We're starting to see that putting everything online has real and troubling social costs.

And the devices we use are becoming 'good enough', to the point where we can focus on making them cheaper, more efficient, and accessible to everyone.

So despite appearances, despite the feeling that things are accelerating and changing faster than ever, I want to make the shocking prediction that the Internet of 2060 is going to look recognizably the same as the Internet today.

Unless we screw it up.

And I want to convince you that this is the best possible news for you as designers, and for us as people."



"So while Moore's Law still technically holds—the number of transistors on a chip keeps increasing—its spirit is broken. Computers don't necessarily get faster with time. In fact, they're getting slower!

This is because we're moving from desktops to laptops, and from laptops to smartphones. Some people are threatening to move us to wristwatches.
In terms of capability, these devices are a step into the past. Compared to their desktop brethren, they have limited memory, weak processors, and barely adequate storage.

And nobody cares, because the advantages of having a portable, lightweight connected device are so great. And for the purposes of taking pictures, making calls, and surfing the internet, they've crossed the threshold of 'good enough'.

What people want from computers now is better displays, better battery life and above all, a better Internet connection.

Something similar happened with storage, where the growth rate was even faster than Moore's Law. I remember the state-of-the-art 1MB hard drive in our computer room in high school. It cost a thousand dollars.
Here's a photo of a multi-megabyte hard drive from the seventies. I like to think that the guy in the picture didn't have to put on the bunny suit, it was just what he liked to wear.

Modern hard drives are a hundred times smaller, with a hundred times the capacity, and they cost a pittance. Seagate recently released an 8TB consumer hard drive.

But again, we've chosen to go backwards by moving to solid state storage, like you find in smartphones and newer laptops. Flash storage sacrifices capacity for speed, efficiency and durability.

Or else we put our data in 'the cloud', which has vast capacity but is orders of magnitude slower.

These are the victories of good enough. This stuff is fast enough.

Intel could probably build a 20 GHz processor, just like Boeing can make a Mach 3 airliner. But they won't. There's a corrollary to Moore's law, that every time you double the number of transistors, your production costs go up. Every two years, Intel has to build a completely new factory and production line for this stuff. And the industry is turning away from super high performance, because most people don't need it.

The hardware is still improving, but it's improving along other dimensions, ones where we are already up against hard physical limits and can't use the trick of miniaturization that won us all that exponential growth.

Battery life, for example. The limits on energy density are much more severe than on processor speed. And it's really hard to make progress. So far our advances have come from making processors more efficient, not from any breakthrough in battery chemistry.

Another limit that doesn't grow exponentially is our ability to move information. There's no point in having an 8 TB hard drive if you're trying to fill it over an AT&T network. Data constraints hit us on multiple levels. There are limits on how fast cores can talk to memory, how fast the computer can talk to its peripherals, and above all how quickly computers can talk to the Internet. We can store incredible amounts of information, but we can't really move it around.

So the world of the near future is one of power constrained devices in a bandwidth-constrained environment. It's very different from the recent past, where hardware performance went up like clockwork, with more storage and faster CPUs every year.

And as designers, you should be jumping up and down with relief, because hard constraints are the midwife to good design. The past couple of decades have left us with what I call an exponential hangover.

Our industry is in complete denial that the exponential sleigh ride is over. Please, we'll do anything! Optical computing, quantum computers, whatever it takes. We'll switch from silicon to whatever you want. Just don't take our toys away.
But all this exponential growth has given us terrible habits. One of them is to discount the present.

When things are doubling, the only sane place to be is at the cutting edge. By definition, exponential growth means the thing that comes next will be equal in importance to everything that came before. So if you're not working on the next big thing, you're nothing.



A further symptom of our exponential hangover is bloat. As soon as a system shows signs of performance, developers will add enough abstraction to make it borderline unusable. Software forever remains at the limits of what people will put up with. Developers and designers together create overweight systems in hopes that the hardware will catch up in time and cover their mistakes.

We complained for years that browsers couldn't do layout and javascript consistently. As soon as that got fixed, we got busy writing libraries that reimplemented the browser within itself, only slower.

It's 2014, and consider one hot blogging site, Medium. On a late-model computer it takes me ten seconds for a Medium page (which is literally a formatted text file) to load and render. This experience was faster in the sixties.

The web is full of these abuses, extravagant animations and so on, forever a step ahead of the hardware, waiting for it to catch up.

This exponential hangover leads to a feeling of exponential despair.

What's the point of pouring real effort into something that is going to disappear or transform in just a few months? The restless sense of excitement we feel that something new may be around the corner also brings with it a hopelessness about whatever we are working on now, and a dread that we are missing out on the next big thing.

The other part of our exponential hangover is how we build our businesses. The cult of growth denies the idea that you can build anything useful or helpful unless you're prepared to bring it to so-called "Internet scale". There's no point in opening a lemonade stand unless you're prepared to take on PepsiCo.

I always thought that things should go the other way. Once you remove the barriers of distance, there's room for all sorts of crazy niche products to find a little market online. People can eke out a living that would not be possible in the physical world. Venture capital has its place, as a useful way to fund long-shot projects, but not everything fits in that mold.

The cult of growth has led us to a sterile, centralized web. And having burned through all the easy ideas within our industry, we're convinced that it's our manifest destiny to start disrupting everyone else.

I think it's time to ask ourselves a very designy question: "What is the web actually for?"
I will argue that there are three competing visions of the web right now. The one we settle on will determine whether the idiosyncratic, fun Internet of today can survive.



Vision 1: CONNECT KNOWLEDGE, PEOPLE, AND CATS.

This is the correct vision.



Vision 2: FIX THE WORLD WITH SOFTWARE

This is the prevailing vision in Silicon Valley.



Vision 3: BECOME AS GODS, IMMORTAL CREATURES OF PURE ENERGY LIVING IN A CRYSTALLINE PARADISE OF OUR OWN CONSTRUCTION

This is the insane vision. I'm a little embarrassed to talk about it, because it's so stupid. But circumstances compel me.



There's a William Gibson quote that Tim O'Reilly likes to repeat: "the future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet."

O'Reilly takes this to mean that if we surround ourselves with the right people, it can give us a sneak peek at coming attractions.

I like to interpret this quote differently, as a call to action. Rather than waiting passively for technology to change the world, let's see how much we can do with what we already have.

Let's reclaim the web from technologists who tell us that the future they've imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.

The Web belongs to us all, and those of us in this room are going to spend the rest of our lives working there. So we need to make it our home.

We live in a world now where not millions but billions of people work in rice fields, textile factories, where children grow up in appalling poverty. Of those billions, how many are the greatest minds of our time? How many deserve better than they get? What if instead of dreaming about changing the world with tomorrow's technology, we used today's technology and let the world change us? Why do we need to obsess on artificial intelligence, when we're wasting so much natural intelligence?


When I talk about a hundred years of web design, I mean it as a challenge. There's no law that says that things are guaranteed to keep getting better.

The web we have right now is beautiful. It shatters the tyranny of distance. It opens the libraries of the world to you. It gives you a way to bear witness to people half a world away, in your own words. It is full of cats. We built it by accident, yet already we're taking it for granted. We should fight to keep it! "
technology  web  webdesign  internet  culture  design  history  aviation  airplanes  planes  2014  constraints  growth  singularity  scale  webdev  siliconvalley  technosolutionism  boeing  intel  microsoft  cloud  raykurzweil  elonmusk  williamgibson  inequality  mooreslaw  timoreilly  software  bloat  progress  present  future  manifestdestiny 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Futurist Stewart Brand Wants to Revive Extinct Species | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com
"Most of the stuff that my fellow hippies tried turned out not to have legs. Communes didn’t. Dope didn’t!"

"Brand: I take my cue from technology historian George Dyson, who argues that, from the perspective of the real world, the digital universe is accelerating rapidly but, from the view of the digital universe, the biological world is slllllooooowwwwwiiing doooowwwwn. Since we humans are amphibians and live in both universes, we are being torn by acceleration on one side and deceleration on the other. That sounds rough, but it’s actually pretty exciting."

"Brand: I want them to know that de-extinction is coming. And I also want the eventual semi-amateur de-extinctors, as they start doing this out in the barn, to understand that there’s a framework of norms about ethics and transparency.

Kelly: What we all need is a manual on how to worry intelligently."
amateurresearch  acceleratingchange  psychadelics  drugs  communes  communitymanagement  trolls  netiquette  identity  pseudonyms  anonymity  stupidityofmobs  wisdomofcrowds  mooreslaw  well  digitalera  usergenerated  user-generated  biohacking  counterculture  geneticengineering  biotechnology  biotech  evolution  change  technology  transparency  ethics  science  georgedyson  2012  interviews  de-extinction  extinction  kevinkelly  stewartbrand 
october 2012 by robertogreco
How We Know by Freeman Dyson | The New York Review of Books
"The public has a distorted view of science, because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries. Wherever we go exploring in the world around us, we find mysteries. Our planet is covered by continents and oceans whose origin we cannot explain. Our atmosphere is constantly stirred by poorly understood disturbances that we call weather and climate. The visible matter in the universe is outweighed by a much larger quantity of dark invisible matter that we do not understand at all. The origin of life is a total mystery, and so is the existence of human consciousness. We have no clear idea how the electrical discharges occurring in nerve cells in our brains are connected with our feelings and desires and actions."

"The immense size of modern databases gives us a feeling of meaninglessness. Information in such quantities reminds us of Borges’s library extending infinitely in all directions. It is our task as humans to bring meaning back into this wasteland. As finite creatures who think and feel, we can create islands of meaning in the sea of information. Gleick ends his book with Borges’s image of the human condition: "We walk the corridors, searching the shelves and rearranging them, looking for lines of meaning amid leagues of cacophony and incoherence, reading the history of the past and of the future, collecting our thoughts and collecting the thoughts of others, and every so often glimpsing mirrors, in which we may recognize creatures of the information.""
freemandyson  books  language  meaning  science  information  history  theory  jamesgleick  wikipedia  borges  libraryofbabel  jimmywales  mooreslaw  claudeshannon  infinitelibrary  relationships  pupose  infooverload  thelibraryofbabel 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Computers as Invisible as the Air - NYTimes.com
"A Silicon Valley announcement last week hinted at the way computing technology will transform the world in the coming decade. Hewlett-Packard scientists said they had begun commercializing a Lilliputian switch that is a simpler — and potentially smaller — alternative to the transistor that has been the Valley’s basic building block for the last half-century.<br />
<br />
That means the number of 1’s and 0’s that can be stored on each microchip could continue to increase at an accelerating rate. As a consequence, each new generation of chip would continue to give designers of electronics the equivalent of a brand new canvas to paint on."
memresistors  microchips  ubicomp  2010  hp  mooreslaw 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Google's Eric Schmidt on What the Web Will Look Like in 5 Years
"# internet will be dominated by Chinese-language content.

# Today's teenagers are the model of how the web will work in five years - they jump from app to app to app seamlessly.

# 5 years is a factor of 10 in Moore's Law, meaning that computers will be capable of far more by that time than they are today. # there will be broadband well above 100MB in performance - & distribution distinctions between TV, radio & web will go away.

# "We're starting to make significant money off of Youtube", content will move towards more video.

# "Real time information is just as valuable as all the other information, we want it included in our search results."

# There are many companies beyond Twitter & Facebook doing real time.

# "We can index real-time info now - but how do we rank it?"

# It's because of this fundamental shift towards user-generated information that people will listen more to other people than to traditional sources. Learning how to rank that "is the great challenge of the age.""
ericschmidt  facebook  twitter  realtime  chinese  china  content  trends  internet  future  web  video  business  socialmedia  media  google  technology  search  mooreslaw 
november 2009 by robertogreco
Charlie's Diary: Commoditizing our future
"A naive soul with no prior experience of consumer capitalism might ask why, instead of doubling in power, the manufacturers don’t concentrate on cutting prices? But that’s not how the industry worked. Until now."
computers  computing  mooreslaw  technology  eeepc  asus  laptops  olpc  economics  hardware  intel  microsoft  business  trends  gamechanging 
november 2007 by robertogreco
Kevin Kelly -- The Technium: Dimensions of the One Machine
"100 billion neurons in human brain..Today the Machine has as 5 X transistors than you have neurons in your head...Somewhere between 2020 & 2040 the Machine should exceed 6 billion HB. That is, it will exceed the processing power of humanity."
ai  brain  computers  technology  networks  singularity  future  internet  gamechanging  web  online  technium  kevinkelly  onemachine  human  processing  hardware  software  storage  mooreslaw 
november 2007 by robertogreco
The best way to predict the future is to prevent it | confused of calcutta
"1. innovation happens as a result of bringing together knowledge, IQ and point of view 2. Don’t worry about whether something is right or wrong, just try to find out what is going on 3. How come there isn’t a Moore’s Law for software?"
change  future  innovation  predictions  alankay  marshallmcluhan  mooreslaw  gamechanging  software  design  scalability  hardware  scale 
november 2007 by robertogreco

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