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Jamais Cascio on Gadgets and the Future 43

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the too-many-blogs dept.
Armchair Anarchist writes "Futurismic has just posted the first column from its new monthly contributor, the renowned Jamais Cascio. Cascio is best known as a co-founder of Worldchanging.com, but is also a prolific blogger (at his own site 'Open The Future'), writer, public speaker and pundit on many aspects of futurism and foresight. This new piece sees him discussing the way futurist thinkers tend to focus on gadgets and technology, and advocating the use of more critical approaches."
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Jamais Cascio on Gadgets and the Future

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  • by NonSequor (230139) on Monday August 07, 2006 @04:38AM (#15857889) Journal
    It must be really hard to be a futurist when your first name means "never" in French.
  • by Shubalubdub (930266) <smmckay@panam.edu> on Monday August 07, 2006 @04:47AM (#15857896)
    So what we're reading...is some guy talking about other guys talking about their guesses for the future. It's...a whole new realm of mental masturbation. I'd try my hand at it myself, but I'm afraid I might break my mental wrist.
    • Ah, so it's not just me who found the blurb a bit strange then.

      I mean, does this guy have any actual experience in the industry he's talking about? The blurb just mentioned he talks alot...

    • I feel like I should be blogging about us discussing this.


      Seriously, the column linked isn't all that bad; but it's hardly newsworthy.

    • from TFA:

      There's an evident problem, however, with technology being effectively the sole focus; many (arguably most) of the significant drivers of change in the world today have more to do with religion, or economics, or the environment than with technological toys. Looking only (or primarily) at new gadgets misses out on the big picture.

      The problem with this argument is that all of religion, economics, and environment are, ultimately, about gadgets. Think about it.

    • Nerds have been indulging in it for decades in the privacy of their rooms. It's called science fiction -- with an emphasis on the science. "Futurism" seems like a PR attempt to get invited to better parties and better academic or think tank gigs. Perhaps by those who don't feel competent to handle the "fiction" half?

      Flippant? I don't know. How many sci fi writers have, or have had, day jobs as scientists and mathematicians? (Quite a few.) "Serious" science fiction has always been that outlet where pe
      • Nerds have been indulging in it for decades in the privacy of their rooms. It's called science fiction

        Uhh... so that's what it's called now? Well see ya guys later... I'm going to indulge in some "science fiction," if you know what I mean.
    • yes and no (Score:3, Insightful)

      by beaverfever (584714)
      "Most of the controversy surrounding these technologies has to do with what they mean -- that is, the values they embed -- not how they work."

      Take the mobile phone, for instance. When people were imagining mobile phones and how they would work, how much attention was paid to considering how people would really use them?

      People driving their cars through traffic while holding a phone to their ear and talking about shopping or going to a party, people sitting in restaurants or other public places speaking loud
      • Take the mobile phone, for instance. When people were imagining mobile phones and how they would work, how much attention was paid to considering how people would really use them?

        People driving their cars through traffic while holding a phone to their ear and talking about shopping or going to a party, people sitting in restaurants or other public places speaking loudly into their phones, or mobiles ringing in the middle of discussions, meals,movies or plays, meetings, etc... These circumstances were consid
  • This is just a variation of the old debate about whether art (including popular expressions of art such as movies, games etc) merely reflects the society that created it or whether it is art that creates and changes society.

    The answer, obviously, is that neither choice is exclusive of the other, and that both are often true.

  • by Angostura (703910) on Monday August 07, 2006 @04:57AM (#15857910)
    ... but maybe it would be better to wait until he posts a really interesting, insightful column before posting it to the front page of Slashdot. This was just a preliminary bit of throat clearing from what I can see.

    And really - a futurologist who finishes his column with "I can't wait to see how it turns out." - that's right up there with "only time will tell" - much beloved of lazy trainy-journalists who have got tired of thinking and have completed their allotted word count.
    • It seems to me, that a futurologist is someone who's entire job it is to think of things that are either blitheringly obvious, or stupidly unlikely. I read an article by some futurologists working for BT, and they were trying to guess what we would be doing in 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years time. The idea of predicting what we will be using our computers, or even our cameras for in 50 years is up there with predicting the second coming of Elvis. Any fool can do it. Anyone want to employ me?
  • Was the Segway [wikipedia.org] guy, Dean Kamen. 'Nough said.

  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Monday August 07, 2006 @06:48AM (#15858040) Homepage
    From the article: There's an evident problem, however, with technology being effectively the sole focus; many (arguably most) of the significant drivers of change in the world today have more to do with religion, or economics, or the environment than with technological toys. Looking only (or primarily) at new gadgets misses out on the big picture. The deeper problem is more subtle and, in my view, more important. A preponderance of focus on emerging technologies leads one to start thinking of technology as a neutral driver of change, rather than as a material manifestation of social values. More often than not, the emergence of new forms of technology is less a catalyst for social change than a result of it. As a result, technology is not neutral. It embodies -- and is biased by -- the underlying values of the cultures in which it is developed.

    Sounds like he's just discovered what Langdon Winner [langdonwinner.org] has been saying since the 1970s, and others since before then. Slashdot frequently sees posts like "a razor blade can be used for good or evil" implying technology is value neutral -- but it isn't. Technology embodies our values, especially when looked at as a system including favorite economic stories at the time -- including a decision to invest in, say, designing nuclear weapons design or marketing larger SUVs instead of say, curing river blindness or designing electric cars -- decisions driven by values.

    Contrast, say, Disney's investments in controlling media with DRM versus the RepRap [reprap.org] project to make a free 3D printer. Winner goes further in his book _Autonomous Technology_ and suggests large bureaucracies "reverse adapt", changing their environment to perpetuate themselves, including the legal environment. So, if you can't make or share your own media or 3D models, then you are dependent on Disney or whoever. Consider the kind of technology to sustain the values described here: CLAWS: Creating Livable Alternatives to Wage Slavery [whywork.org] and how it might differ from the politics and policies and technologies and infrastructure of today. Or from this essay The Abolition of Work [whywork.org]: "Clearly these ideology-mongers have serious differences over how to divvy up the spoils of power. Just as clearly, none of them have any objection to power as such and all of them want to keep us working. ... Only a small and diminishing fraction of work serves any useful purpose independent of the defense and reproduction of the work-system and its political and legal appendages. Twenty years ago, Paul and Percival Goodman estimated that just five percent of the work then being done -- presumably the figure, if accurate, is lower now -- would satisfy our minimal needs for food, clothing and shelter. Theirs was only an educated guess but the main point is quite clear: directly or indirectly, most work serves the unproductive purposes of commerce or social control."

  • "This is a more important issue than you might think. If you doubt the relevance of social values when thinking about the future, ask yourself: how would an intelligent machine built by computer scientists in China differ from one built by computer scientists in the United States... Or an electric car design coming from computer industry veterans rather than a Big Three carmaker? "

    1 - The intelligent machine built in the US is not censored
    2 - Electric car would be highly efficient and not consume oil,
    • 1 - The intelligent machine built in the US is not censored

      Correction: The intelligent machine built in th US would not be officially censored.

      2 - Electric car would be highly efficient and not consume oil, therefore it is blocked by the lobbying power of oil companies which have recently benefitted from record profits given to them by high oil costs ($74/barrel.)

      Just because the car would run on electicity would not make it more efficient.

      As for being blocked by oil companies, it's more consumer econo

    • Thanks for an intelligent, highly knowledgeable post.

      You point out the humongous weak point and fallacy with all such "futurist" stuff. According to the 1974 Senate Select Committee Investigation on the Transportation Industry, a successful conspiracy took place over a period of thirty-some years. This was verified by the testimony (under oath, the way they used to do it in the olden days...) of former executives of GM, Sunoco and Firestone, who did willfully conspire to subvert and destroy urban transit

  • Because they fail to look at the rampant stupidity and greed that is making innovation go down the toilet.

    Examples? sure! I currently have great TV service at home, I do not have Cable or Dish I use the Internet. Some of the shows I want to watch are NOT on the net for me to collect so I have installed "collectors" at friends homes to record and then foreward my few recordings to me (low bandwidth plus I compress to mpeg4) My setup works great and all my friends and relatives think it's really cool and wa
  • futurists (Score:3, Informative)

    by vivIsel (450550) <paul@selCHEETAHker.com minus cat> on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:05AM (#15858352)
    This man has nothing to do with futurism [wikipedia.org]. Futurism is far more interesting than anything he's talking about.
  • "Futurismic has just posted the first column from its new monthly contributor, the renowned Jamais Cascio.

    Who?

    Cascio is best known as a co-founder of Worldchanging.com,

    Wow. They changed the world so much I never heard of them.

    but is also a prolific blogger (at his own site 'Open The Future'),

    My friend's cat has a blog. Admittedly it tends to cover catnip, hunting birds and napping positions, but it's a blog nonetheless.

    writer, public speaker and pundit on many aspects of futurism and foresi

  • by neatfoote (951656) on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:33AM (#15858473)
    Cascio has worked on a number of television and film projects, and has designed two science fiction game settings, exploring issues of posthumanity, intellectual property, sapient AI, nanotechnology, and bioengineering. Jamais has degrees in Anthropology, History and Political Science.
     
        This snippet from the blogger's bio encapsulates, basically, why calls (like this one) for a turn away from "content" to "a more critical approach" make me nervous. It's true that social values influence technology, and that the nexus of the two is an important area of study-- but why is it that offers to critically examine that nexus always seem to come from outsiders who aren't themselves involved or well-versed in the technology?
     
    Everybody has an opinion, naturally, but a learned commentary on bioengineering, coming from a poli-sci type who may or may not have taken even the most introductory biology courses, would carry about as much weight for me as a lecture on Aristotle from my cocker spaniel. If "critical futurism" is poised to become a valid scholarly/intellectual discipline, I'd much rather see it populated by actual scientists and engineers-- people who're themselves helping to create the future, and who should therefore be in a good position to comment on how it's going-- than by film-school types who've read Foucault but can't do math.
    • This guy is no better than Nostradamus. He has no real insight, no technical background, no basis in the scientific method or objective reality. He is a paid fantasizer and daydreamer without the skill to even create an enjoyable storyline. I wonder how much this nobody paid slashdot to advertise his scam?
    • Jamais Cascio here.

      For what it's worth, my focus in my study of anthropology was human evolution, and I spent about six years post-grad school working in IT. If you check the archives of my articles at Worldchanging.com, you'll see that I have a reasonable grasp of a variety of sciences. Regardless, the larger issue of being skeptical of "experts" (self-described or otherwise) is a good one. I'd gently suggest, however, that it's not just scientists and engineers who are "helping to create the future," but
  • Is it just me who is sick and tired of seeing nobodies like this fool elevated to some prophet-like status purely because they happen to have a way with words?

    Let's elevate those people who actually achieve something making changes in our society like Linus Torvalds, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie or Tim Berners Lee - hell, we could even put Mr Gates on one of the lower pedestals!

    In my day, someone who said something without actually doing anything was known as a hypocrite - and "Personne" Cascio ("jamais"

    • Linus Torvalds deserves greater recognition for his achievements than Bill Gates? Linux was the figurehead for a large group of (mostly) volunteers that created a low quality version of something we already had. Not the stuff legends are made of.

      Linking Torvalds with Edison is disgusting as Linus only invented things in his own mind. Not saying he hasn't achieved---just nothing new. Bill Gates achieved at an unprecedented level even if you don't like it or don't respect his approaches. What did Linus give
    • you really ought to look in a dictionary before you start using long words you don't quite understand to insult people. That way, you stand a chance of making your target look like an ass, instead of just yourself. After you've looked up Hypocrite, may I recommend you also check out the following Shut Up You Vapid and also Tool
  • Enough is enough. First Leo Laporte takes over the techtv like storm, with his degree in chinese linguistics or some other obscure discipline, along with his wine spectator turned pundit Dvorak. Now the likes of this Jamais Cascio guy, whom I never heard of before today. One look at the two klinked pages, he is nothing but a glorified blogger. Glorified only by likes of /.

    Day is 24 hours and I only have few minutes to be spared for functions like eating and sleeping. I can do without reading Jamais and his

"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -- William E. Davidsen

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