Nota Bene #124: I'm a Doctor, Not an Engineer

“I don’t believe in this fairy tale of staying together for ever. Ten years with somebody is enough.” Who said it? Continue reading

Reader Roundtable: what's the greatest technology of all time?

Scholars & Rogues wants to know: what do you think is the greatest technology in human history?

Before you answer, what do we mean by “technology”? I think we all have sort of an operational idea in our heads of what we mean by the term, but if you’re like most people, odds are pretty good that you’ve never sat down and tried to articulate a real definition. A couple pretty smart thinkers had some thoughts on the subject that you might find helpful. Or challenging. Let’s see.

First, Arnold Pacey, a British scholar whose Culture of Technology helps us understand that technology is a lot more than just the machine itself, which Pacey calls the “restricted” sense of the term. Continue reading

Staking out the (astro)turf in battles over electronic voting

By Martin Bosworth

Earlier this month, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a self-proclaimed “nonpartisan think tank,” released a policy statement opposing the usage of paper audit trails for electronic voting machines. The report’s author, Daniel Castro, wastes no time staking out the ITIF’s position on the issue, calling supporters of paper balloting and audit trails a “technophobic movement,” and saying that the debate needs to “move beyond discussions of paper” into purely electronic voter-auditing trails.

Castro would seem to make a persuasive argument about the safety of e-voting, but there are a few things that trip up his own “paper audit trail,” if you will. Continue reading

FCC wireless auction: Google wins, AT&T wins, Americans lose

By Martin Bosworth

Today the FCC set its guidelines for how the newly available wireless spectrum frequencies are to be auctioned. In a nutshell, the FCC agreed that networks built on the new spectrum should enable any device to connect to services built on those networks–which is a win for anyone tired of paying hundreds of dollars for a phone you can’t use if you switch carriers.

But the FCC did not endorse Google’s call for complete “open access,” or the principle that the winner of the auction could sell the spectrum to other companies in order to build new wireless broadband networks–effectively dashing technologists’ hopes of creating a “third pipe” to compete with incumbent telcom and cable companies. Continue reading

Basic principles for building America’s Internet future

By Martin Bosworth

Crossposted at Open Left.

Senator Dick Durbin has begun a several-night series of conversations with the blogosphere on how to build a set of principles for improving American broadband and Internet development. This is a watershed moment and a fantastic (if long overdue) chance to make the people’s voices heard on this most important issue. You don’t have to be a tech policy wonk to understand the multilayered importance of the Internet, and you don’t need to read all the latest blogs or whatever to know that our country’s Internet development is appalling.

So with that in mind, here’s what I put to Senator Durbin–a few basic principles for what our country needs to build its Internet future. Continue reading

The tragedy of innovation: how brilliant ideas are criminalised

The Increment of Man

“This push for a so-called “green revolution” or “gene revolution” is being done once again under the guise of solving hunger in Africa. Chemical-intensive agriculture is, however, already known to be outmoded. We have seen how fertilisers have killed the soil, creating erosion, vulnerable plants and loss of water from the soil. We have seen how pesticides and herbicides have harmed our environment and made us sick.”

African civil society organisations at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, 2007

Read Farming Solutions, a joint initiative of Oxfam and Greenpeace, and we discover who is behind this savage and deliberate policy of poisoning life on earth and destroying the environment. It is global organisations like the World Bank, and large corporations like Monsanto, McDonalds and Walmart.

Human beings are pathetic, ignorant and helpless creatures lying on our spindly backs, our limbs flailing in the air as the corporations lined against us tread our ambitions into dust.

How did it go so wrong? When did hindsight become an excoriation of past genius and a call to denigrate all that we invented?

Continue reading