The thing I treasure about science fiction is its utility as a toolkit for thinking about the relationship between technological change and human beings. This is why I value “design fiction” so much: an architect might make a visualization that flies you through her as-yet-unbuilt building, an engineer might build a prototype to show you what he’s thinking of inventing, but through design fiction, a writer can take you on a tour of how a person living with that technology might feel. That’s the kind of contribution to the discussion about which technology we should make, and how we should use it, that can make all the difference.
Cory Doctorow, at Locus Online, on “Cold Equations and Moral Hazard”. Read it.
Consider a system to be made up of procedures, some of which are stateful and others which aren’t. We have already discussed the difficulties of understanding the bits which are stateful, but what we would hope is that the procedures which aren’t themselves stateful would be more easy to comprehend. Alas, this is largely not the case. If the procedure in question (which is itself stateless) makes use of any other procedure which is stateful — even indirectly — then all bets are off, our procedure becomes contaminated and we can only understand it in the context of state. If we try to do anything else we will again run the risk of all the classic state- derived problems discussed above. As has been said, the problem with state is that “when you let the nose of the camel into the tent, the rest of him tends to follow”.
As a result of all the above reasons it is our belief that the single biggest remaining cause of complexity in most contemporary large systems is state, and the more we can do to limit and manage state, the better.
“Out of the Tar Pit”, Ben Moseley and Peter Marks, 2006
The means by which we live are marvelous indeed. And yet something is missing. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.
King Jr, Martin Luther (2012-11-06). A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings (King Legacy) (pp. 76-77). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.
The “software crisis” was first identified in 1968 and in the intervening decades has deepened rather than abated. The biggest problem in the development and maintenance of large-scale software systems is complexity — large systems are hard to understand. We believe that the major contributor to this complexity in many systems is the handling of state and the burden that this adds when trying to analyse and reason about the system. Other closely related contributors are code volume, and explicit concern with the flow of control through the system.
“Out of the Tar Pit”, Ben Moseley and Peter Marks, 2006
Only through the bringing together of head and heart— intelligence and goodness— shall man rise to a fulfillment of his true nature. Neither is this to say that one must be a philosopher or a possessor of extensive academic training before he can achieve the good life. I know many people of limited formal training who have amazing intelligence and foresight. The call for intelligence is a call for openmindedness, sound judgment, and love for truth. It is a call for men to rise above the stagnation of closedmindedness and the paralysis of gullibility.
King Jr, Martin Luther (2012-11-06). A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings (King Legacy) (p. 43). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.
Jim Benson, in his recent post, “You Are a Role Model”, gets to a core belief I carry about the shadows we cast in this world and our effects on each other, whether we choose to believe it, or not. A good read to start a week.
Hard to believe that the World Wide Web launched into being on March 12th, 1994. Its ethos, its architectural principals, and its use, have helped to open the world to each of us, with the simple power of the link. My career, and more important, the friendships I have made, wouldn’t have been possible without it.
A couple years after launch, in 1996, I attempted to launch my own home page on VoiceNet, a Philadelphia ISP. Like Kimberly Blessing (a friend, old coworker, and influence on my career), I decided to see if I could restore it, and here it is, mostly.
Thank you WWW
Voyager 1 has recently entered interstellar space, take a moment to pause and think about it, it will leave you inspired.
Yesterday my daughter and I watched episode 6 of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos,“Travellers’ Tales” (watch it for free at Hulu). One of my favorite chapters of Cosmos, it pulls together stories of Earth’s early explorers and the team at NASA who were working on Voyager. Brit Mandelo wrote a great description of the episode:
“We have travelled this way before, and there is much to be learned by studying those great voyages of a few centuries ago.”—This is the guiding sentiment of “Travellers’ Tales.” It’s a literary sentiment, the idea that stories structure our world, and that stories are the commodity that we gain from exploration then bring back to trade amongst ourselves. The juxtaposition of stories—the 17th century Dutch scientific and exploratory culture with the late 70’s narratives of the Voyager spacecrafts—allows us, in a metonymic way, to understand a piece of human nature that Sagan seems to be arguing holds us together as a species.
Brooks Barnes, at The New York Times, wrote “In a Breathtaking First, NASA’s Voyager 1 Exits the Solar System”:
Even among planetary scientists, who tend to dream large, the idea that something they built could travel beyond the Sun’s empire and keep grinding away is impressive. Plenty of telescopes gaze at the far parts of the Milky Way, but Voyager 1 can now touch and feel the cold, unexplored region in between the stars and send back detailed dispatches about conditions there
The New York Times piece quotes Suzanne Dodd, one of the original engineers on the project and who is now Voyager Project Manager.
Discovery News: Meet the Youngest Video Game Programmer:
A bright young programmer from Philadelphia recently unveiled a video game involving ballerinas, jewels and vampires — sure to be a hit with young girls. The programmer herself also happens to be seven years old.
Zora Ball, a first grader at the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School in Philadelphia, created the video game in a class focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics led by Tariq Al-Nasir, who heads the STEMnasium Learning Academy.
Checkout Zora’s story at Discovery News.