Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Not About Money (Part I)

I have a lot to say about this subject, so my next couple of posts will focus on it. I'm going to begin with a thought: given the extraordinary amounts of work done by professional to provide free services online for little or no profit (think Wikipedia, for example), could we see a world in which most groups work primarily to achieve an end other than money? What would their incentive be instead?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chopsticks on a Grand Piano

Have you ever bought a fancy kitchen mixer just because you needed a new bowl? Or maybe a fancy moleskin organizer for doodling? Would you buy a $10000 custom road bike to ride to school? Yeah, me neither.

But this is exactly what we often do with technology today.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Three Reasons Why I Stayed off the Anti-SOPA Bandwagon.

Being enrolled in a class whose entire focus is the current evolution of a digital society, it was not possible for me to avoid the SOPA/PIPA controversy. I was all but forced to develop an opinion on an issue that I would otherwise have left for the more bombastic crowd.

It would have been easy to accept the "facts" as they were presented:

"SOPA is censorship in open violation of the Bill of Rights! SOPA will break the internet! SOPA won't work!"

But I didn't like that.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Huey Lewis, Look No Further

In the twentieth century, we have seen the rise of the “common man’s” drug… 

and “designer” drugs… 

and pretty much all addictive drugs. (See here and here for excellent resources on the history and status recreational drug use in America)

In fact, prior to this era people were stuck with opium, tobacco, and alcohol to satisfy their recreational drug desires. It was a very boring time for those sorts of people. However, with the development and popularization of cannabis, heroin, amphetamines, LSD, cocaine, and a host of others as well as variants of these, drug users entered an exciting new era! There were drugs for the wealthy, the poor, and everyone in between. Plenty of new users joined in the fun of substance abuse! The 1960s and the 1970s were the golden age.

But then something happened.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

G. D. Rockefeller

I have heard of late the worries of concerned friends and others regarding the new major powers arising in the internet world. It appears that people are concerned that we are seeing the rise of new monopolies. Are Google, Facebook, Amazon, et al. the new Carnegies, Vanderbilts, and Rockefellers? I'm not an economist and I don't pretend to know all about this sort of thing, but I'll try my hand here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

If Everybody Blogs, Who Will Read?

It is, perhaps, somewhat paradoxical that I would write about this topic in this medium. Perhaps it is best; this may be the perfect means for me to find a counterpoint to my own thoughts. And if someone out there does actually read this, you can probably let me know where I've gone astray.

I have a friend who grew up in a very large and very musical family. His father is a music teacher and each of his siblings is proficient in one or more musical instruments. I was naturally surprised, then, when he told me he does not really play anything. His explanation: "If everybody plays, who will listen?" To his credit, he is an excellent singer, but his response made me wonder about a few things. What happens when everybody starts writing?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012


To get started, I should explain that I am initiating this blog as part of a class at Brigham Young University called Digital Civilization. Each student is required to maintain a blog related to the course content. As a result, some of my posts for the next few months may seem odd (should anyone actually stumble upon this blog beyond classmates), like I'm responding to a prompt or something (because I probably am). However, this conveniently happens to be a field in which I have been tempted to blog for some time, and there is a good chance that I will continue after the end of the class.

For this initial post, I am required to respond to the prompt "What do I know about the historical period and the digital concept assigned to me?" As you may have deduced, I have been assigned a historical period: the 18th century; and a digital concept: information.

Well, where do I begin? The 18th century: a lot happened in those days. That period saw the extensive colonization of the Americas and the birth of what became the most powerful nation in the world, not to mention the single society most responsible for the development of the modern digital age. But there is much more to be said: The 18th century was the time of enlightenment. Scientific advances from such great thinkers as Sir Isaac Newton, coupled with the facilitation of the distribution of information through the printing press, set the stage for a rapid change in intellectual thought throughout the century. The scientific method was more rigorously developed and people sought to understand rather than just cope. The first extensive experiments into electricity were performed, beginning the process that would eventually allow for electronics and most of the technology around us today. But the enlightenment was not simply relevant to the production of technology; rather, one might argue that the shift in modes of thought precipitated the very society that allowed for our digital age to develop.

As for information: the term is a little abstract. I imagine that information in the context of my discussion must be taken partially axiomatically, for establishing a precise and non-circular definition is beyond me at the moment. For my purposes now, I will consider information to be any idea stored in some medium. Though "idea" is a vague term, I don't feel like going into a Platonic dialog to nail down its meaning. The definition I have given will suffice. Now, information is central to the digital civilization in which we live. The average American does not seem to be able (or, perhaps, willing) to function without a constant influx of information, and that information is generally provided digitally. Billions of dollars are lost or won with information, and to some, certain information is worth that much. Censorship, content control, piracy, and most other digital issues are centered on the availability of information. In short, even if I can't properly define information, I can certainly establish its importance. In the end, we would not have a digital civilization at all were it not for information, for digital technology was originally developed and is still used entirely for information acquisition, storage, and transfer.

I suppose that will do for now. I hope I wasn't too dry.