Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Cost of Freedom (Part 2)

We can't hope to value our freedom if we don't pay the cost.

First lets establish a working definition of terms. Freedom is the ability to choose or act without constraint; in other words, to have certain authority over ones own self. This is the thread that weaves together "Freedom" and "Authority"; they are facets of the same jewel.

But, what is the cost that one must pay to have and value our freedom?

The Thomas Pain quote in Part 1 was used by Robert Heinlein as an introduction to Chapter 6 in Starship Troopers. In this chapter we saw an exchange between a professor and his student Mr. Rico; exploring in general terms how the human experiences defines the cost and value of things in life.

Later in Chapter 12, I believe Heinlein gives an answer to the cost of freedom specifically. The following is an exchange between the same professor and student looking back at the "failed democracies" of the past, which would be our present.

The professor begins:
"...This universe consists of paired dualities. What is the converse of authority? Mr. Rico."
          He had picked one I could answer. "Responsibility, sir."

"Applause. Both for practical reasons and for mathematically verifiable moral reasons, authority and responsibility must be equal - else a balancing takes place as surely as current flows between points of unequal potential. To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy. The unlimited democracies were unstable because their citizens were not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority... other than through the tragic logic of history... No attempt was made to determine whether a voter was socially responsible to the extent of his literally unlimited authority. If he voted the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead - and responsibility was then forced on him willy-nilly and destroyed both him and his foundationless temple. (Pg 183, my emphasis)
The cost of freedom/authority is clearly responsibility.

Responsibility is a supreme cost because it demands nothing short of self imposed hardship/discomfort/suffering; that is...
  • Integrity
  • Discipline
  • Self-control
  • Sacrifice
  • Humility in acknowledging and...
  • ...Submission to a higher authority than oneself.
Responsibility is the process/action required to value/actualize freedom in life.

This makes sense of the premise I proposed in an earlier post; "the best things in life are attained through agony, sweat, and devotion".

Conclusion: To learn to value freedom in your life, you must pay the cost by being responsible with the time, energy, resources, and opportunities you are given.

What happens when we have freedom/authority, but don't value it (i.e. pay the cost with responsibility)? In Part 3 I'll explore this question and applications to specific types of freedom stated in Part 1.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Cost of Freedom (Part 1)

  "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated." -Thomas Paine
I find this to be a rather cryptic phenomenon in the human experience.

In simpler terms, Thomas Paine seems to propose that if we have freedom without cost, we won't value the freedoms in our life. Even further, I propose that to not value ones freedom is to never have tasted freedom in the first place.

Certainly, whether we value it or not, we all live in the reality of some level of freedom:
  • Visible first amendment rights of all U.S. citizens
  • Privileges given to a teenager by their parents
  • Tangible ability to cast a vote for a citizen of a democracy
  • Invisible inner freedom that even a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz has access to.
But what cost must we pay to truly value, to actualize, freedom in our lives?

Another Thomas (Jefferson), and contemporary freedom-fighter of Paine, seems to give an answer to this question when he said:
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
I understand this sacrifical blood of a patriot to be a manifested cost of freedom; a specific cost paid for a specific type of freedom. It is a sign post pointing to a more universal and foundational truth about the cost of freedom, which undergirds the entire human experience.

I will attempt to continue exploring this foundational truth in future posts.

Until then, I encourage you to read a previous post exploring how the human experience defines cost and value of things in life - The Best Things in Life Are Free. Also, the first article in "The Crisis" series by Thomas Paine (the source of the opening quote) is an elegant piece of writing and equally fascinating glimpse into history.

It has some good laughs too. Totally off topic, I got a kick out of this line in particular:
"'Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been subject to them. Britain has trembled like an ague at the report of a French fleet of flat-bottomed boats; and in the fourteenth [fifteenth] century the whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was driven back like men petrified with fear; and this brave exploit was performed by a few broken forces collected and headed by a woman, Joan of Arc. Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen, and save her fair fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment!"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Chinese prisoners do physical labour by day and digital labour by night.

The unusual part is that the digital labour is more lucrative than the physical labour:
"Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old ... reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.

"Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour," Liu told the Guardian. "There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [£470-570] a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off." (The Guardian via Charlies Diary)
This skewing between reality and digital reality blows my mind.

Real slave labour to produce digital goods in a digital world which are sold for real money. The international "Gold Farming*" industry in online gaming is fascinating

It reminds me of people buying digital goods with real money for a digital farm on which you do digital work in order to support real needs. Which makes me wonder why anyone would ever give away real money (in a world with limited physical resources) for any cause if they aren't getting some sort of incentive in their digital life (a digital reality with unlimited digital resources).

This is the kind of stuff that is really going to mess with the way we think in the next decade.

*It's interesting to note that the stats mentioned in the Guardian's article were exact numbers mentioned in the Wikipedia article, only with no reference to the source or date of the studies. tsk-tsk

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Building the Seed Cathedral

Since I shared a picture of the UK Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo last year, I had to share this great TED talk by Thomas Heatherwick:

via i09

I was thrilled to see that his studio was behind another design that caught my eye in 2010 - the new  London "Routemaster" Bus:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We Used to Wait

Until our most recent blip on the timeline, distances separated us farther and communication was drastically slower.

This slowness meant waiting.

Waiting gave hope.

Waiting gave time for healing, when hopes are left unfulfilled.

"It seems strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But what's stranger still
Is how something so small can keep you alive"

"Ooooo we used to wait
Sometimes it never came
Ooooo we used to wait
Still moving through the pain"
In the digital age there is no waiting.

There is no hopeful anticipation.

There is no reflection.

There is no time for healing.

There is no process.

"Now our lives are changing fast
Hope that something pure can last" 
It's enough to put the modern man in a state of psychosis.
"Now we're screaming"

Is what we are running towards worth the sacrifices of what we're leaving behind?

The quotations are from "We Used to Wait" by the Arcade Fire. The Suburbs was easily my favorite album of 2010. I have listened to the entire album no fewer then 40 times in the last year (according to my iTunes).

The video is an interactive film that you can experience yourself at www.TheWildernessDowntown.com  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"It's Gonna Take Awhile"

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. 
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. 
Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one [work]. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through." (my emphasis) - Ira Glass
Inspiring words for anyone struggling to refine a skill, craft, or are committed to creative work.

Via NPR. It's an excerpt from a series you can watch on Youtube.


After reading this post a friend shared a line he was told when beginning woodworking:
"Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly"
This is a much more quotable wedge to open up the same conversation.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bill Gate's School of the Future

A few weeks ago I wrote about the education paradigm we inherited from Henry Ford's "School of the Future".

Henry Ford was a man of his time, to be sure. He perceived "man" as a mass produced machine, engineered for efficiency, maximizing output, and necessitating and obsession with standards to ensure quality control.

But, oh, how mans relation to the machine has changed since the industrial revolution.

The metaphor might have worked when machines were rudimentary and we were it's master; but with the evolution of the machine the metaphor has become an impossible yoke to bear (I believe this to be the source of much frustration, detachment, and apathy in the psyche of the modern man).

Times have changed and our paradigms for education (how one learns and for what end) need to evolve as well.

In the same way that Henry Ford embodied the industrial revolution, Bill Gates embodies the digital revolution of our time.

With significant investments in education being made from the Gates Foundation, one has to wonder if Bill Gates is driving a new education paradigm; a School of the Future for the 21st century.
"...the Gates Foundation announced $20 million in grants for digital learning with an emphasis on instructive video games."(Fast Company)
If Gates is driving a new paradigm, will it be holistic and dynamic enough to evolve over time? Or will we look back on this paradigm with as much revulsion as we do today with the legacy of Henry Ford? Or is it inevitable to be trapped by our age, continuing to pass down antiqued paradigms?

History can be quite hard on pioneers whose legacy lingers too long.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Amateur Shakespeare Library is Complete

This last weekend I had a serendipitous moment at The Coolidge House, during our stay in Ashland to see Julius Caesar. The house had a decent library, with an expected bias towards Shakespeare (The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is Ashland's economy).

I perked up to one book in particular titled "Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare". I was a shocked to see the name Asimov, who I always knew as the quintessential sci-fi author, attached to the epitome of English Renaissance theater. Honestly, I assumed it was a coincidence and only picked up the book to scratch my itching curiosity and confirm that it was indeed a different Asimov.

I was wrong.

After flipping through the book, I was hooked, and scrambled through his analysis of Julius Caesar in the days leading up to the play. This guide is exploding with historical, mythological, geographical, and legendary context to Shakespeares plays.

In the introduction, Isaac Asimov ponders how the works of Geoffrey Chaucer (late 14th century) had become unreadably archaic only 200 years after they were written because of the rapid evolution of the English language. Asimov then proposes:
"It is almost as though the English language dare not change so much as to render Shakespeare incomprehensible. That would be an unacceptable price to pay for change"
It's hard to resist Shakespeare, or this guide for that matter, after reading such a bold and arousing claim.

A few antique books shops in Ashland had copies, but they were going for the steep price of $60. I did a price match on eBay and realized this wasn't just "tourist trap pricing".

After seeing Julius Caesar, feeling supremely enlightened by Asimov's scrupulous research, I had committed to put down the $60 as a worthy investment. Last minute, I thought to check Powell's online database (one of the many great reason to live in Portland). They had a clean copy for $15!

Together with the 1853 Complete Works of Shakespeare I picked up a few weeks ago, my amateur Shakespeare library is now complete for a grand-total of $21.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Julius Caesar Impressions

Seeing only a couple plays annually, I consider myself an amateur theatergoer. That being said, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival appeared on our radar because of the buzz surrounding To Kill a Mockingbird. By the the time we heard the buzz and tried to buy tickets, it was sold out.

All the same, we had become enamored with the idea of a long weekend at a Bed and Breakfast in Ashland, and decided Julius Caesar would be a safe bet.

The following are my impressions (I dare not call it a review) of the 2011 Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of Julius Caesar in Ashland Oregon:

The Prelude

The experience begins outside as you approach the theater. The courtyard is lined with banners of political leaders who have been assassinated; priming you mentally and emotionally for the central tension of the play.

For example, one banner defiantly proclaims Abraham Lincoln as "Tyrant". But as you walk past each banners you see that, just as with the story of Julius Caesar, there are two perspectives to every political action taken. On the other side Lincolns banner, he is celebrated as the "Emancipator".

The two sided banners challenge deeply seated notions, bringing in to question the motives and consequences of ones political action, and anticipating the prophetic line that Cassius will speak; "...How many ages hence, Shall this our lofty scene be acted over; In states unborn and accents yet unknown!" (Act II Scene I Line 110-113).
The Culture of the Cast

A small anecdotal observation before the play began encapsulates the caliber of the cast.

Prior to the show the cast was out mingling with the audience. As I was observing the personalities of different cast members I curiously noticed their affections being poured over one actress in particular. A steady stream of cast members found her, embracing and kissing her, lavishing her in praise.

This clicked for me after it was announced at the beginning that she was filling in for another actor.

In the time leading up to the show, when apprehension would be at it's peak, she never had a moment alone in her thoughts to dwell on the pressure of being thrown in as a substitute. The cast tangibly communicated that they appreciated her, they trusted her, and couldn't be more happy to be performing with her.

I haven't spent much time in theater circles, so I'm not sure how commonplace this behavior is. But this strikes me as very healthy culture amongst the cast. Maybe it's the fruit of a very capable director?

The Surprise in the Cast

I'll just get it in the open now so we can move on - Julius Caesar is a women.

Not just played by a women, but the actually character in the play was changed to a female role / lead. And you can stop rolling your eyes.... now. Though I can relate because when I first heard this I was concerned the production was going to be a radical reinterpretation of the original work. This is not the case. It is only one of a few modifications (more of which I will touch on later).

I don't believe Shakespeare's intention was to accurately portray a historical event, and if it was, he failed miserably. More importantly he is telling a timeless tale about pride, power, and politics.

In retrospect this modification felt minor. It helps that she is a phenomenal actress. In fact, now it's hard to imagine a better Julius Caesar than Vilma Silva.

The Start

I've never put much thought into how a play begins. I don't mean the first line of the play or the story telling method that is used to pull the audience into the narrative. I'm talking about when the lights dim, the audience quiets, the curtain rises to reveal the stage; that precise moment that stands between "before the play" and "the play" itself.

As I mentioned before, the cast was out mingling with the audience. As the start time approached a few announcements were made and invitation was given for audience participation. This amounted to going rabid whenever Caesar lifted her hands. We practiced once, erupting into cheers, whoops, chants, applause, stomping. Spurred on further by the cast we practiced a second time - the atmosphere became absolutely electric.

Right at the height of the second "practice", shouts erupted on stage and the play broke in to action.

This was one of the best theater experiences of my life. The line that marks the start of the play was totally blurred in the ecstatic cheers. At an unidentifiable moment, we as the audience merely practicing our cheers, had evolved into actors in the play, which had already begun.


The Stage

This type of an opening complemented the unique nature of the stage. The play was performed in the New Theater (Which is actually the name. Makes one wonder if the name of the theater will evolve over time).

It is a 360 degree stage, with the audience in true stadium seating looking down at the stage in the center.

This got me geeking out on the science of a stage. In contrast to a typical stage, which is largely a two-dimensional canvas on and X and Y axis (up/down and left/right) with entrances to the stage on either side. The New Theater is in a sense a true 3-dimensional stage, adding a Z axis (forward and backward) with entrances now on the left and right (X axis) and the front and back (Y axis).

This changes everything when it comes to choreography.

The first time I described to someone the natural question was "did you spend half the play looking at everyones butt?". I was perplexed, because this seems like it should be the case. The fact that this thought never crossed my mind during the play must be a supreme compliment to the choreography of the production.

In this picture of Ashland, the New Theater is just behind the open air Shakespearean Theater in the foreground.

The Costumes and Props

The wardrobe was superb. While the rendition of the play was true to the period of the text, the clothing was more contemporary/modern/industrial. Think jeans, boots, messenger bags, canvas, utilikilt. In less words; bad ass.

I can imagine this not working for some people, but it totally worked for me. The clothes looked good by modern design aesthetics, making it less of a distractions and allowed me to more fully enjoy the content of the play.

The whole play was knives and swords, that is until Octavius pulled out a gun. In the moment, this was great for the intensity factor, but for me it kind of blew the consistency of the period. If people have guns why did everyone waste their time with knives and swords until this point? This bothered me more then Julius Caesar being a women. That's not to say it was a big deal, but goes to show how minor both of them are. Elena wasn't bothered by this at all though. So maybe I'm being anal.

The Story

In high school, I was convinced Julius Caesar was the bad guy. Brutus and Cassius were noble martyrs. This conclusion makes sense as a modern day interpretation coming from an American worldview. "Freedom, liberty, and death of the tyrant" is something any good American can get behind.

But freedom and liberty for who? And what is really motivating the political action and for who's benefit?

All the details of this production couldn't have made the tension of the play more palpable.

The Most Memorable Scenes

Caesars dream scene sent shivers across ever inch of my body.

Cinna the Poets murder tied my stomach in knots.

Mark Antony's eulogy for Caesar was a riot


I don't fancy myself a theater snob, so I fear it's hard to be critical. As an amateur theater-goer I was blown away by this production. I never imagined I could have so much to say about a play. Personally, just that it was able to stir thought and reflection on so many levels demonstrates the quality of the production.

After this very positive experience we're looking into a subscription to the Portland Center Stage. They give sizable discounts on tickets and subscription packages for anyone under the age of 30. I have my eye on Anna Karenina coming next April.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Till then, Think of the World!

A couple weeks ago we made the most of our first really sunny day in Portland with a lazy stroll around downtown all afternoon.

We hit some of the favorites like South Park Block on PSU's campus, Pioneer Square, and the Central Library. The fountain in the picture is from the Standard Building plaza.

On this stellar day in Portland we also scored an equally beautiful 1853 publishing of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

The timing couldn't have been better.

We are going to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this weekend. I had been wanting to revisit Julius Caesar before we see the play. I only vaguely remember reading it in high school.

It has been refreshing to read Shakespeare again. You don't encounter this kind of elegance in writing very often. The words are not content to merely be read. They stir your tongue; begging to roll off your lips; begging to be spoken.

One obscure line in particular grabbed me. Cassius's farewell to Brutus at the end of Act 1 Scene 2:
"...till then, think of the world!" 
At first this phrase was... odd. What does it mean to "think of the world"? The first answer that came to mind was, of course, another question.

In Cassius' historical context, how would one understand the concept of "the world"?

This lit up my brain with all kinds of awesome. But why stop there...

  • What was "the world" to Cassius in 44 BC?
  • What was the world when the play was written by Shakespeare in 1600 AD?
  • What was the world when this edition was published in 1853?
  • And how different the world is today in 2011?
What do you think are the major paradigm shifts through the centuries that have changed the way humanity understands "the world"?

I haven't formulated a satisfying answer to this question. But in conclusion, I will say, I don't think Cassius was intending his farewell to be taken literally by Brutus; I don't think he was literally suggesting that Brutus ponder the concept of "the world".

A general summary of the scene as it relates to the farewell: Cassius has been berating Caesar, simultaneously inflating Brutus' pride. So it strikes me as an inspirational, if not grandiose, farewell. In modern terms, maybe analogous to: "I'll see you later; and don't be discouraged, you can do anything that you set your mind to!"

Do correct me if I'm wrong. I don't fancy myself a Shakespeare expert.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Best Things in Life are Free

 Agree or Disagree?

I see two valid interpretations of this statement.

The first is hyperbole:
  • We all love free stuff - it's nearly impossible to resist. But it's hyperbole, because we don't really believe these free things are the best of life. We feel getting something free is better than paying for it because then we have more money to spend on something else.

The second is wordplay:

Though, there are some caveats to both of these interpretations:
  • Do we really value something that is free more than the same thing if we paid for?
  • Even further, are these "best things of life" which can't be bought with money, truly free?
  • Do they really not have any cost?
  • And would these things still be valuable if they didn't require a cost?

How we answer this last question decides whether the value of things are inherent or relative.
This topic was sparked by the following excerpt, which is a fictional exchange between a teacher and student concerning how the value of things in life are defined. I encourage you to read it to further process this topic.

Mr Dubois, the teacher, begins with a short lecture and then engages in some role play with one of the students:
"This very personal relationship, 'value', has two factors for a human being: first, what he can do with a thing, its use to him... and second, what he must do to get it, its cost to him. There is an old song which asserts 'the best things in life are free.' Not true! Utterly false! This was the tragic fallacy which brought on the decadence and collapse of the democracies of the twentieth century; those noble experiments failed because the people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted... and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears.

"Nothing of value is free. Even the breath of life is purchased at birth only through gasping effort and pain." He had been still looking at me and added, "If you boys and girls had to sweat for your toys the way a newly born baby has to struggle to live you would be happier... and much richer. As it is, with some of you, I pity the poverty of your wealth. You! I've just awarded you the prize for the hundred-meter dash. Does it make you happy?"

           "Uh, I suppose it would."

"No dodging, please. You have the prize - here, I'll write it out: "Grand prize for the championship, one hundred-meter sprint.' "
           He had actually come back to my seat and pinned it on my chest.
"There! Are you happy? You value it - or don't you?"

           I was sore. First that dirty crack about rich kids - a typical sneer of those who haven't got (money) - and now this farce. I ripped it off and chucked it at him.

Mr Dubois had looked surprised. "It doesn't make you happy?"

           "You know darn well I placed fourth!"

"Exactly! The prize for first place is worthless to you... because you haven't earned it. But you enjoy a modest satisfaction in placing forth; you earned it. I trust that some of the somnambulists here understand this little morality play. I fancy that the poet who wrote that song meant to imply that the best things in life must be purchased other than with money - which is true - just as the literal meaning of his words is false. The best things in life are beyond money; their price is agony and sweat and devotion... and the price demanded for the most precious of all things in life is life itself - ultimate cost for perfect value." (-Robert Heinlein)
The excerpt is from Chapter 6 (Page 93) of Starship Troopers. It's probably apparent why I didn't state that at the beginning - I wanted you to actually read it.

I've never seen the movie, and I don't have any desire to see it. The book is brilliant. It first lit up on my radar when a friend told me it was his favorite book because of the political and philosophical content. I was intrigued and subsequently delighted to snag a copy at a book swap.

Back on topic and in conclusion, I propose a more literal statement concerning the human experience to be "The best things in life are attained through agony, sweat, and devotion".

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Googles "Dear Sophia" Ad is Creepy After All

While I was getting all misty eyed from this video, Elena was appalled that Google would imply that you should aggregate all the information about your child's life in gmail (instead of a photo album or scrap book).

Another blogger contrasts Apples latest ad with Googles latest ad:
Think about how each company makes money and what they have to sell to make that money. Apple makes almost all their money selling hardware products — selling to you. Google makes almost all their money selling advertising — selling you. (Or in this case, your child. Seriously — yikes!) (tipb.com)
I guess Google just can't stop freaking people after all.

I don't mean to sensationalize this. On the contrary, this is a great opportunity to stop and take inventory of technology's role in our life.

We freak out because it's a change; we are entering into the unknown. How much information do we want someone, like Google, to have about our lives?

Yes it's new/weird/different/unsettling that Google is aggregating all the minutia of our personal lives (still anonymously of course) for the purpose of selling us to companies that want to sell to us. But keep in mind this is not totally unfamiliar territory (besides the fact that Google has already been doing this for the last decade). This trick is the dirty little secret of the magazine industry for the last century. Their profits don't come from selling you a subscription, rather selling you on their list of subscribers to marketers. But that didn't keep anyone from subscribing to magazines.

The fundamental shift is in the detail, accuracy, and scope of information about you being made available to marketers in the digital age. We now have to ask if this is too much information, and if so, why.

I find this to be a fascinating turning point in the consumer market.

Historically, there has been a vast chasm between buyers and sellers. To cross this chasm is to enter into a vast labyrinth, shrouded in grey fog, hiding many dangers, pitfalls, and dead ends.

In bygone days, it was the job of the marketer to lead expeditions into this chasm; exploring and mapping this labyrinth. Advertisements were the sign posts and trail markers that were constructed, pointing buyers on their path to the seller.

But in this dangerous land, even the signs couldn't always be trusted. They could be confusing, often misleading, and sometimes flat out lies. When possible, it was often easier to ignore the signs altogether and trust the guidance of a friend who had already navigated the path first hand.

Much time, energy, and resources are exhausted just trying to get from one side of the chasm to the other.

Well, that is until Google built a bridge straight over it - a direct link between buyer and seller.

Google is transforming the mystery of marketing into a science - cold hard facts - who you are, what drives you, what excites you. The details are meticulously logged and calculated to connect consumers to their needs and wants.

In fact, (and this might be the scariest part) we are entering an age where Google might even understand these things about you better then you do. To me, this is far more unsettling, and that's not necessarily Google's fault either. Unless this mystery about ourselves is a valuable part of the human experience?

Is it bad to be connected to exactly what you need and want when you need and want it? This is efficiency in the marketplace. Achieving the highest level of satisfaction for the least amount of money at the least amount of effort.

Are we losing anything if we continue down this path?

We lose frustration, dissatisfaction, buyers remorse, confusion, indecisiveness, wasted time... we lose mystery...we lose risk.

Risk-management through system efficiency.

Isn't that one of the main drivers of our modern age? Is that Good? Bad? You tell me.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Google Just Made Me Want to Have a Baby

 with their Dear Sophia ad:

Via DaringFireball

This is a refreshingly human side to Google after spending the last year trying to freak me out about technology along with Sony.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Insight Into Where Osama Bin Laden Spent His Final Days

"The compound is just a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy - the country's equivalent of Sandhurst or West Point." (BBC)

"The Pakistani authorities are under growing pressure to explain how the al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, could have lived just minutes away from a military facility without being discovered." (BBC
How could the worlds most wanted terrorist have been living in a mansion within an affluent government city, a few hundred meters from a military academy?

It's a valid question.

Shame: A NovelWhile this seems unbelievable to the outside observer, the answer is quite obvious once you read the novel Shame. Once read, the location of Osama Bin Ladens compound will seem to be the most likely of events.

A good friend in India recommended this novel by Salman Rushdie a month ago.  For me to read Shame in the weeks leading up to this event in Pakistan couldn't have been better timing. The novel is a fascinating exploration of the psyche and history of Pakistan (something I knew nothing about prior to reading) with some magnificent magical realism bringing it to life off the pages.

Personally, I would have expected Osama Bin Laden to have built a compound a little more like this monolithic safe house in Poland (make sure you check the link to see it in full "safe mode"):

As opposed to this:

Guess life is hard for terrorists these days too. Lets hope it stays that way.