Monday, June 25, 2007


That's Soooo 2000

I've got my new issue of Wired magazine, working my way through it cover-to-cover. That doesn't mean I'm necessarily reading every little thing, but I like to work front-to-back so I don't miss something. The cover image/article is of Transformers - as in the "more than meets the eye" type. I didn't get into these as a kid, so haven't read the article yet. My son went right to it, though - first thing read. I was more interested in the the mapping article "The Whole Earth, Cataloged: How Google Maps is changing the way we see the world" by Evan Ratliff and "Dispatches From the Hyperlocal Future" by Bruce Sterling.

Wired is relentlessly future-seeking, which makes me breathless and frustrated. Can't keep up! Can't . . . keeeeeep. . . up! Part of what makes me feel this way is how Wired's articles talk about what happened a mere seven years ago as if it was ancient history. For example, did you know that the Captcha (those squiggly letters/numbers that you have to type in periodically when doing web work in order to foil spambots) was invented by Luis von Ahn in 2000? Luis von Ahn has moved on to figuring out how to teach computers how to recognize beauty. (See the article "The Human Advantage" by Clive Thompson.) Seems like the Captcha has been around a while, but seven years is nothing in human history. Of course, this notion of three, five, seven years ago being ancient history is not Wired's fault. It's the nature of technology that is warping our sense of time. Wired simply reflects that. (What does irritate me about Wired is its habit of amplifying how incredibly backwards people are if they don't keep up or don't know what every abbreviation means. Where is their online glossary when you need one?)

What astounds me is that human creativity in general has ramped up to that same dizzying speed as technology. Think about how many books are produced per year now as opposed to in the 1800s. The classics from the 1800s are classics because they didn't have as much competition. We have thousands of Ansel Adams, what with digital photography, millions of publishers with blogging (although a good share of those aren't worth the 0's and 1's they're written with), and how many gazillions of movie producers with YouTube. There is simply no way the human mind - a single human mind - can track everything. We simply have to do our best and forget the rest.

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