Things I've Tagged ‘Technology’

Page 1 of 1

On The Passing of Google Reader

When I heard about the impending closure of Google Reader, I reacted as any rational person would: I freaked the hell out in my head, and wondered what I would do now that a huge part of my daily workflow for the past eight years was going away. Does that make me an entitled bastard? Probably.

Their reasoning behind the closure was that “usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company [they’re] pouring all of [their] energy into fewer products,” and that seems like a bit of a cop out, for many reasons. To address the first point, we never really get a solid look at what those declining numbers are. Did they lose 50% of their user base in two years? What exactly does that look like? In so far as focusing their energy on fewer products, they chose some pretty wild products in a range of industries that are decidedly not part of what I perceive to be their core. Are self driving cars, Google Glass, and Chromebooks really more important than a product that is useful right now on the web?

I don’t know why I’m so bothered by this closure. The fact is, I gather the vast majority of my news and information from Google Reader, and switching to another service is going to be tough. I’ve already chosen Feedly, and done the prerequisite sync, but it’s not the same the experience. Perhaps with time, the information flow that service provides will match up or become better, but right now, I’m not impressed by the in‐browser experience.

Sad to see you go, Reader.

Survival In The Modern World

Are we, in any way built to survive in this world? I would be tempted to state unequivocally that our ability to control our environment in ways unimaginable to our great‐great‐great grandfathers would be proof of a positive supposition in this respect, but I suspect I would be wrong in thinking as much.

Our ability to survive in the environment we’ve created for ourselves is reliant upon factors that if ever put out of balance would ultimately be devastating to populations and cultures.

Consider: greater than 50% of the world’s population is concentrated in urban centers. It takes a great deal of organization and planning to house, feed, protect, and maintain such populations; these urban environments are reliant upon just‐in‐time deliveries of food, utilities, and the organization of police forces to help maintain order.

What if some disaster put the delivery of food out of balance? Being an urban environment, it would be exceedingly difficult for residents to compensate for such food losses with their own provisions through gardening, hunting, or gathering. Residents are reliant upon the type of farming that is most devastating to land: large corporate farms.

Not that this sort of activity is bad. On the contrary it has allowed the world to be fed and fed cheaply, and is certainly a contributing factor in the explosion of population we’ve experienced in the past century; however, this land will not be arable forever and we cannot expect the sort of abundance we’ve grown accustomed to in our supermarkets to last.

If utilities are severely disrupted, we run into similar problems with food, yet in this case perhaps the lack of availability of clean and easily used water is more devastating.

The point is: as a whole our reliance upon the conveniences of modern life have built a situation that could lead to extremely undesirable consequences if any one part of it were to go out balance.

I’m just as vulnerable as anyone else in this. I’m not prepared to grow my own food, identify what sorts of things are safe to eat, build impromptu or semi permanent shelters, and live in a way that should come naturally to us as human beings. The loss of life would be great if the situation were extended to a large swath of the population, i.e. many major urban centers.

I love modern life, but what cost does it have 100 or more years from now?

Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vaccuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1.5 tons.