June 28, 2019

Snippet: Jony Ive to Leave Apple ☍

Apple’s Newsroom:

Apple today announced that Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, will depart the company as an employee later this year to form an independent design company which will count Apple among its primary clients. While he pursues personal projects, Ive in his new company will continue to work closely and on a range of projects with Apple.

I can’t say I’m too surprised, as there have been rumblings that he was looking to do something new for awhile. I suspect the rumors that he had been scaling back his role in products, and focusing on other things like Apple Park may also be true. While it is big news, I’m not too concerned at the moment. I think things will be different with Apple with the restructuring of Ive’s area, but I think this doesn’t necessarily mean doom and gloom for the future.

June 21, 2019

Snippet: Ambient Privacy ☍

Mackenzie Ceglowski (via Adam Tinworth):

My own suspicion is that ambient privacy plays an important role in civic life. When all discussion takes place under the eye of software, in a for-profit medium working to shape the participants’ behavior, it may not be possible to create the consensus and shared sense of reality that is a prerequisite for self-government. If that is true, then the move away from ambient privacy will be an irreversible change, because it will remove our ability to function as a democracy. […]

That is not the conversation Facebook or Google want us to have. Their totalizing vision is of a world with no ambient privacy and strong data protections, dominated by the few companies that can manage to hoard information at a planetary scale. They correctly see the new round of privacy laws as a weapon to deploy against smaller rivals, further consolidating their control over the algorithmic panopticon.

I’ve tried to opt-out as much as I can because it creeps me out. I know it’s probably only been a drop in the bucket, but there are too many people with the philosophy of, “I have nothing to hide, so why does it matter?”

June 6, 2019

Snippet: If ‘Big Tech’ Is a Huge Antitrust Problem, Why Are We Ignoring Telecom? ☍

Karl Bode for Techdirt (via Nick Heer):

Oddly missing from coverage from these probes is the fact that much of this behavior by the Trump administration may (*gasp*) not be driven by a genuine interest in protecting markets and consumer welfare. For one, it’s hard to believe that an administration that has shown it’s little more than a rubber stamp for sectors like telecom is seriously worried about monopoly power. Two, it’s hard to believe an administration obsessed with nonexistent censorship is going to come at these inquiries with integrity, and not, say, as a vessel to pursue a pointed partisan persecution complex. […]

Yet again, notice how telecom gets a free pass by the Trump administration? Notice how Silicon Valley is demonized, but telecom’s surveillance and anti-competitive gambits see zero backlash? I don’t think it’s happenstance that this new Trump “big tech” antitrust push comes as big telecom has asked for just such a push to aid its own competitive agenda. A lot of folks on both sides of the political aisle who’d like to see more done to rein in “big tech” seem a touch oblivious to the possibility that this new antitrust push may not be entirely in good faith.

I find the double-standard frustrating in that you can opt-out of using products and services from Amazon, Google, Apple, or Facebook, yet many people only have one or two choices for ISP, one of four choices for cell carrier (at least the networks the services run on), and many of these have engaged in nefarious behavior. For recent examples, Apple running the App Store and offering Keynote as a free download is probably less of an existential threat than carriers selling location data. You can opt-out of a mobile platform or social network for one of the (albeit few) alternatives. You may not be able to opt-out of your ISP.

May 28, 2019

Snippet: I Miss Blind, Dumb Enthusiasm for New Tech ☍

Martin Bryant for The Next Web:

And it’s not just the press. The wider tech community seems less enthusiastic about startups. Whereas the annual festival of technology and BBQ food that is SXSW in Austin used to be a place where apps like Twitter and Foursquare first broke through, you’re now more likely to hear conversations about how AI threatens society.

This whole piece hit home for me—I think we’ve been burned too many times by flashy, yet faulty startups or being letdown by the large players in the industry. It’s a shame, as getting excited about a new service or app could be a lot of fun.

May 15, 2019

Snippet: Why Paul Ford (Still) Loves Tech ☍

Paul Ford for Wired (via John Gruber):

The things we loved — the Commodore Amigas and AOL chat rooms, the Pac-Man machines and Tamagotchis, the Lisp machines and RFCs, the Ace paperback copies of Neuromancer in the pockets of our dusty jeans — these very specific things have come together into a postindustrial Voltron that keeps eating the world. We accelerated progress itself, at least the capitalist and dystopian parts. Sometimes I’m proud, although just as often I’m ashamed. I am proudshamed.

As someone who grew up while this industry had its foot down on the gas pedal, more and more I’m finding myself amazed, disgusted, tired, and having a tough time reconciling all of it. When things like irresponsible social networks or privacy problems or the ever-reigning ad revenue become too much, I retreat into thinking about the stuff that would’ve amazed me as a kid:

When I was a boy, if you’d come up behind me (in a nonthreatening way) and whispered that I could have a few thousand Cray supercomputers in my pocket, that everyone would have them, that we would carry the sum of human ingenuity next to our skin, jangling in concert with our coins, wallets, and keys? And that this Lilliputian mainframe would have eyes to see, a sense of touch, a voice to speak, a keen sense of direction, and an urgent desire to count my actual footsteps and everything I read and said as I traipsed through the noosphere? Well, I would have just burst, burst. I would have stood up and given the techno­barbaric yawp of a child whose voice has yet to change. Who wants jet packs when you can have 256 friggabytes (because in 2019 we measure things in friggin’ gigabytes) resting upon your mind and body at all times? Billions of transistors, attached to green plastic, soldered by robots into a microscopic Kowloon Walled City of absolute technology that we call a phone, even though it is to the rotary phone as humans are to amoebas­. It falls out of my hand at night as I drift to sleep, and when I wake up it is nestled into my back, alarm vibrating, small and warm like a twitching baby possum.