Roll on the future

By one of those not so strange coincidences following my last entry, “Half a Brain”, I came across this article by Dan Gillmor in the FT where he says:
“I am a dinosaur. Scott McNealy told me so.
Really: I�m one of those people who still thinks it�s a good idea to carry my data around with me. Well, not all of it, but most of what I need for my work, and quite a lot of my leisure data as well, namely music in my MP3 collection.
Mr McNealy, the co-founder and longtime chief executive at Sun Microsystems, thinks my notions are quaint. My data should be as available, wherever I happen to be at the moment, as electricity.
He told me this in a recent conversation at Sun�s Silicon Valley headquarters. In a small conference room, one of the tech industry�s longest-surviving (corporately, that is) chief executives pulled out a �smart card,� plugged it into a stripped-down Sun workstation, typed in a password and there was his desktop. That�s how it will work in the future, he said.”

Roll on the future say I.

Half a brain

Thanks to a bug in Mac OS X I have effectively been computer-less for the past few days – unless “starting login window” and stopping there counts as being connected. Although I have access to other computers, the loss of “mine” has left me feeling as if I am operating with half a brain – an interesting example of McLuhan’s “extensions of man”.
All of which reminds me of an article I wrote many years ago where I was arguing the case for VIPs (Virtual Internet Presence). The idea was that instead of my computer existing on a device in my possession, my computing environment would exist on a server somewhere, that I could access from any connect device anywhere.
At the time most people felt uncomfortable with the idea. They wanted their data in their possession. Now many of us have “always on” connectivity, where the division between “my computer” and the net have become blurred, I wonder whether the idea now has legs. The technology to do it has been around for years – that was what prompted my article. Now so many of us find so much of our lives and brains are embedded in our computers and our computers are so vulnerable to failure or loss, my sense is that a secure personal computing environment “out there” may be becoming increasingly attractive.

Creativity and conversations

Long term readers will know I have some problems with aspects of Grant McCracken’s thought. But the man does have this habit of coming up with such insightful, thought provoking stuff that I find myself returning to his blog on a regular basis.
McCracken’s blog also highlights a problem I have with the blog as a form, which on checking to write this I find have written about before, again in relation to him. My problem is that because they are built around dated entries there is an implicit sense that the latest is the most interesting and without a lot of internal cross-referencing there is little to encourage the reader to explore.
Now with some very newsy blogs this isn’t a problem, but in the case of someone like McCracken there are hidden riches too easily missed.
Just one example, I take you back a year or so to one of a series of entries where he talks about the nature of creativity. Here’s an excerpt from the entry about conversations and creativity (a subject that is dear to my heart):
“We talked about blogging mostly, whether, how and with what logic this universe would distribute, and several other things. I thought I glimpsed a rhetorical form here, and I began to think that this was our unofficial process for creativity.
One person would take up the conversation lead. He would begin building an argument, looking for the assertions that would singly and collectively make a case. And always you could tell the conversation was as much between the speaker and himself as it was between the speaker and the rest of us. Did this work? Can I say this? Is this the best way to have said it? What could I say next? What is the best next step? How is the larger argument taking shape? Do the one and the other conform to the things I think I know about the topic and the world? Even if these things are not clear or, possibly wrong, am I still in the view corridor, the vector, that I believe to be fundamentally the correct one. And occasionally, we would see someone stumble upon an illumination that was not at all what he meant to say, but we could see that he was now truly on to something and follow up as he began to work the theme, bringing some things with him, leaving other things behind.”

Go on read the whole piece and then explore the rest of his site. I’m sure youll find something that sparks your interest and make the whole trip worthwhile.

The less you work, the more you produce

A chirpy interview with Tom Hodgkinson in Mother Jones produced the following gem:
“I had lunch with these French people who said, ‘Travailler moins, produire plus’. In other words, the less you work, the more you produce. And certainly in my own experience – even in the really good jobs – a lot of the day is just spent sitting there, staring at your screen, pretending to work, checking your emails, on the phone to your girlfriend. I realized I’d rather work hard for two or three hours in a day -which was the only real work I was doing – and then bobble about the rest of the time, in the park or whatever. I’ve found that there isn’t any correlation whatsoever between the hours put in and the quality of what comes out. Most of the Beatles songs probably originated in about five minutes. Often, the things that a lot of work has gone into have been incredibly bad because they’re over-worked.”

Creating Service Envy?

I met Chris Downs and Lavrans Lovlie a few years ago when I was a visiting lecturer on the Computer Related Design MA at the Royal College. At the time I thought they would go on to do something interesting and from time to time I visit their company site (Live/Work) to see what they are up to.
Dropping in today I saw something that reminded me of the Provos and their White Bicycle scheme in the 60s given a commercial twist:
“live|work has partnered with Streetcar as part of the strategy to shift from ownership to use; from product to service; from owning a car to simply having access to one. It seems like the ultimate design challenge, and to make this shift a service must rival the design quality of the product – we need to create service envy.”
Take a look at their Streetcar study and the rest of the stuff on their site. I think they’re on to something really important.