Power of Good Production Values

Just watched an interesting presentation on augmented reality which must be the next big thing that we will all get to have lots of fun with in the next few years.  For those of you who don't know it, the poster child is the GE work recently launched.

GE Augmented Reality – Plug In To The Smart Grid Just as Microsoft Surface was the pre-launch of gesture computing the iphone made real, the first baby steps of Cop Space are becoming a reality. In the presentation, the guys from Inition showed an example of a car on a road where the reflection of the dotted lines were reflected on the car itself and speeded up and slowed down with the car, based on the users movement of the paper.  Nice stuff. Made me think of a scifi classic, of course.  In SnowCrash by Neal Stephenson the protagonist, Hiro, visits a very powerful man in the book's virtual reality called the Metaverse.  He is ushered into the office and to Mr. Ng's pleasure, Hiro recognises the statement he is making much like a wealthy collector would hope a visitor notices a Miro casually hanging in the corner.

"You working with Fisheye?" Ng says, lighting up a cigarette. The smoke swirls in the air ostentatiously. It takes as much computing power realistically to model the smoke coming out of Ng's mouth as it does to model the weather system of the entire planet.

Don't forget the impact of great production values.  People recognise and respect quality.  It makes an impression.

Tech Fiction – We're All Geeks Now

How can everyone not love near future fiction?

I've just finished Charles Stross' Halted State which is a great read on a whole host of levels — from 10 year out science fiction with pervasive high bandwidth wifi, smart location services, vision-enhancing glasses with data overlays and a second-tier economy between massive multiplayer online games. It is a nice vision of technology and when I get a moment I'll tap in some of the amazing quotes this guy has come up with to share.

On another note finishing one book set me off looking up others and in the process came across a few videos of another favourite author, Neal Stephenson, which I came across it in classic web linking fashion seeing the link because both spoke at Google's Mountain View authors series. 

Never ceases to amaze how uninteresting the TV becomes when you can watch 2 hours back to back of interesing writers.  (And how effective putting good content online gives you a better appreciation for the brand the sponsors it.) At anyrate I noticed Stephenson called out one of my favorite lines by saying in a commencement address that "we are all geeks now."  Not his best presentation but the content is excellent:

His idea is that we all have an area of passion that we can feed because of the freely available information today — and publish as easily. My idea when I called the great and good of marketing and advertising at the Ogilvy Verge event "geeks" and said it was ok because "we're all geeks now" was we are all become adept at using technology to live fuller lives.

Either way we should all embrace it — technology is here to stay and will do wonderful things for all of us. Long live techno-utopianism.

Book Review: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

It is funny when you stumble across a book that immediate grabs you.  I came across Snow Crash staying at a friends in Auckland, picked it up and didn't put it down until it was done.

Here's the opening line:

The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed sub-category. He's got esprit up to here. Right now he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachno-fiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel: feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books.

Classic cyber-punk in a way with all of the great references to science fiction technology.  But this man isn't a mercenary — he is in pizza delivery.

Why is the Deliverator so equipped? Because people rely on him. He is a roll model. This is America. People do whatever the fuck they feel like doing, you got a problem with that? Because they have a right to. And because they have guns and no one can fucking stop them. As a result, this country has one of the worst economies in the world. When it gets down to it–we're talking trade balances here–once we've brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out, they're making cars in Bolivia and microwaves in Tadzhikistan and selling them here–once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel–once the Invisible Hand has taken all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani bricklayer would consider to be prosperity–y'know what? There's only four things we do better than anyone else

microcode (software)
high-speed pizza delivery

The Deliverator used to make software. Still does, sometimes. But if life were a mellow elementary school run by well-meaning education Ph.D.s, the Deliverator's report card would say; "Hiro is so bright and creative but needs to work harder on his cooperation skills."

Absolutely fantastic.

The book carries on to introduce virtual reality and a prescient (or proscriptive?) version of Second Life called the Meta-Verse, but that can be found in reviews all over the net. 

More interesting to me is the tying of economics, sociology and good character development.  Take this final excerpt about our Deliverator's life code which is based on Sumari culture:

"There's no difference between modern culture & Sumerian. We have a huge workforce that is illiterate or aliterate & relies on TV–which is sort of an oral tradition. And we have a small, extremely literate power elite–the people who go into [cyberspace], basically–who understand that information is power, & who control society because they have the semimystical ability to speak magic computer languages."