Bits – 5 February 2017

I’m thoroughly enjoying Netflix’s “Unfortunate Series of Events”. No, it’s not just for kids (although I confess I also enjoyed the books – very, very original and clever). Well done, brilliantly executed, with an impressive cast and excellent photography… it’s also really funny, in a subtle, deadpan way.

unfortunate series of events

In the episode I watched with my family today, 14-year old Violet Baudelaire quotes Huraki Murakami:

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.”

I’ll leave it at that…

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Quartz had a delightfully refreshing suggestion: that instead of going football-crazy today, we watch the superb owl.

Yes, there is such a thing as The Owl Channel, with live feeds of nests. Watch that for a while, and you begin to think that the world is ok after all. (The Great Horned Owl has just gone to sleep. Awwww.)

owl gif

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A somewhat chilling but nonetheless insightful article on Medium by Ernest Oppetit on privacy and technology. Yawn, you might think, read lots of those. Not like this one, you haven’t.

Bitcoin is not mentioned once, but payments and online data are not the point of the article. The article focuses on the impact of video on our right to privacy, and on how it’s virtually impossible to escape its encroachment.

I was not aware that privacy was such a new concept, only about 150 years old. The first privacy-oriented law in the US was the 1710 Post Office Act, which prohibited post office employees from going through people’s mail.

“Nonetheless, privacy has always remained a secondary concern to convenience and cost. This explains the consistent, broad adoption of new technologies which encroach on our privacy but are deemed worth it.”

The article zooms in on the effect automated vehicles (= driverless cars) will have on our privacy. The tough legal issues surrounding value-based decisions (if crashing into someone is inevitable, who should the car choose?) are joined by legal issues surrounding privacy (what if I don’t want to have my route recorded?).

“Autonomous Vehicles may bring about a step change in public tracking and surveillance — everything, everywhere continuously recorded, this time with no way to opt out. I’d love to be proved wrong, but it seems that privacy is a complete afterthought in the push towards our driverless future.”

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Now if this doesn’t totally blow your mind…

image via NASA
image via NASA

The rings of Saturn, photographed by the Cassini spacecraft. Get this, the blips and blemishes are not scratches on the film! They are effects created by cosmic rays and charged particle radiation. I’m geeking out here…

I mean, think about it, we are out there photographing Saturn!! And yes, there’s a lot of stuff to fix here on earth still. But frontier busting is part of what being human is all about. Taking a step forward, because we can.

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An excellent article from Ben Thompson at Stratechery, on how media is shaping politics – not a new subject, but definitely an original take:

“the media industry has, thanks to the Internet, been completely stripped of its gatekeeper role when it comes to the spread of information. Instead of scarce newspapers or TV stations there is an abundance of information providers, which means the real power has shifted from distribution to discovery… Thus, by extension, the real power in politics has shifted from parties to the people.” (my emphasis)

Which totally changes not only the way the message is delivered, but the message itself.

“…the dominant force in discovery is Facebook; whereas Google gave answers, Facebook doesn’t even require you to ask a question.”

Facebook doesn’t wait for users to pull information, like Google does. Facebook pushes information, based on engagement statistics. What drives engagement? Passion and rhetoric. Common sense and sound policy is so, well, boring.

“There is little to be gained from “layering on” a digital strategy to a broadly acceptable mass market offering; to succeed on the Internet the pursuit of passion must be the goal from the beginning.”

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Some great tweets from the past week:

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