Uncategorized

As We May Think by Vannevar Bush:

Looking at the reactions to Google’s big-time push into weblogging (see item below), I was led to Matt Webb‘s comment that “Google is building the Memex” and thence to this 1945 Atlantic essay by Vannevar Bush which so amazingly prefigures the internet not so much technologically — it’s quaintly limited in that respect — but in discussing what such a development would do for the relationship between thought and the sum of knowledge.

Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, “memex” will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.


It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.


In one end is the stored material. The matter of bulk is well taken care of by improved microfilm. Only a small part of the interior of the memex is devoted to storage, the rest to mechanism. Yet if the user inserted 5000 pages of material a day it would take him hundreds of years to fill the repository, so he can be profligate and enter material freely.”

Uncategorized

Google Buys Pyra:

Blogging Goes Big-Time:

Weblogs are going Googling.


Google, which runs the Web’s premier search site, has purchased Pyra Labs, a San Francisco company that created some of the earliest technology for writing weblogs, the increasingly popular personal and opinion journals.


The buyout is a huge boost to an enormously diverse genre of online publishing that has begun to change the equations of online news and information. Weblogs are frequently updated, with items appearing in reverse chronological order (the most recent postings appear first). Typically they include links to other pages on the Internet, and the topics range from technology to politics to just about anything you can name. Many weblogs invite feedback through discussion postings, and weblogs often point to other weblogs in an ecosystem of news, opinions and ideas.


“I couldn’t be more excited about this,” said Evan Williams, founder of Pyra, a company that has had its share of struggles. He wouldn’t discuss terms of the deal, which he said was signed on Thursday, when we spoke Saturday. But he did say it gives Pyra the “resources to build on the vision I’ve been working on for years.” — Dan Gillmor, siliconvalley.com

Gillmor has a nice set of blinks to commentary on this development from the weblogging community. It may give more credibility to weblog content, and users of Blogger like myself may get better technical support from the bevy of Google web engineers, and certainly Evan Williams will be sitting pretty getting one of those dotcom buyout windfalls that seem to have become a thing of the past. But I worry about the smell of oligopoly here, and how the little independent weblogger will fare in the corporate blogging environment. Certanly more immediacy to the need to study Google’s threat to privacy now…

Uncategorized

Pentagon Perverts Pharma with New Weapons: Liability and Public Image in the Pentagon’s Drug Weapons Research. “The conventional view is that pharmaceutical research develops new ways to treat disease and reduce human suffering; but the Pentagon disagrees. Military weapons developers see the pharmaceutical industry as central to a new generation of anti-personnel weapons. Although it denied such research as recently as the aftermath of the October theater tragedy in Moscow, a Pentagon program has recently released more information that confirms that it wants to make pharmaceutical weapons. And on February 5th, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went a big step further. Rumsfeld, himself a former pharmaceutical industry CEO, announced that the US is making plans for the use of such incapacitating biochemical weapons in an invasion of Iraq.” Sunshine Project

Uncategorized

Unspeakable Conversations:

Harriet McBryde Johnson meets influential philosopher Peter Singer.

He is the man who wants me dead. No, that’s not at all fair. He wants to legalize the killing of certain babies who might come to be like me if allowed to live. He also says he believes that it should be lawful under some circumstances to kill, at any age, individuals with cognitive impairments so severe that he doesn’t consider them ”persons.” What does it take to be a person? Awareness of your own existence in time. The capacity to harbor preferences as to the future, including the preference for continuing to live.


At this stage of my life, he says, I am a person. However, as an infant, I wasn’t. I, like all humans, was born without self-awareness. And eventually, assuming my brain finally gets so fried that I fall into that wonderland where self and other and present and past and future blur into one boundless, formless all or nothing, then I’ll lose my personhood and therefore my right to life. Then, he says, my family and doctors might put me out of my misery, or out of my bliss or oblivion, and no one count it murder.


I have agreed to two speaking engagements. In the morning, I talk to 150 undergraduates on selective infanticide. In the evening, it is a convivial discussion, over dinner, of assisted suicide. I am the token cripple with an opposing view. NY Times

Uncategorized

Small World Competition Gallery

“gives you a glimpse into a world that most have never seen. It is a window into a universe that can only be seen through the lens of a microscope.


For the past 28 years, Nikon has sponsored the Small World Competition, the world’s foremost forum for recognizing excellence in photomicrography. Listed below are links to image galleries featuring photomicrographs from the winners of previous contests.” [via MetaFilter]

Uncategorized

Salon warns it may not survive beyond February:

Online magazine publisher Salon Media Group Inc. on Friday warned that it may not survive beyond this month if it can’t raise more money to pay its rent and other bills.


The San Francisco-based company painted a grim financial picture in a quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


Things are so bad, Salon said, it stopped paying rent for its San Francisco headquarters in December, prompting the landlord to issue a Jan. 29 demand for a $200,000 payment.


To raise money, the company said it may sell its rights to $5.6 million worth of advertising on a Cablevision Systems Corp. subsidiary for as little as $1 million. Miami Herald

Uncategorized

The Decline and Fall (cont’d.): As Man Lay Dying, Witnesses Turned Away

D.C. police released a startling surveillance tape yesterday that shows a daylight killing at a Northeast Washington gas station and witnesses doing nothing to report the crime or tend to the victim as he lay bleeding on the concrete. The videotape, from the Hess station in the 500 block of Florida Avenue, shows in gruesome detail the Jan. 31 slaying of Allen E. Price, 43, of the 2100 block of Fourth Street NW. Police said they were shocked by the apathy of those who were there, including one man who continued pumping kerosene after looking briefly at Price’s body. Washington Post

Counterpose this to the same days’ turnout of millions for peace. [Growing up, I lived in the Queens, NY neighborhood which, similarly, turned its deaf ears in 1964 to the murder of Kitty Genovese in the streets below its windows. It is useful to point out that, while I detect in the coverage of the current episode an innuendo that such callous disregard is associated with the lower class minority locale, the Genovese murder took place in a white-collar white neighborhood and the disregard was laid down to middle class complacency. Plus ca change… ]

Uncategorized

Pentagon Perverts Pharma with New Weapons: Liability and Public Image in the Pentagon’s Drug Weapons Research. “The conventional view is that pharmaceutical research develops new ways to treat disease and reduce human suffering; but the Pentagon disagrees. Military weapons developers see the pharmaceutical industry as central to a new generation of anti-personnel weapons. Although it denied such research as recently as the aftermath of the October theater tragedy in Moscow, a Pentagon program has recently released more information that confirms that it wants to make pharmaceutical weapons. And on February 5th, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went a big step further. Rumsfeld, himself a former pharmaceutical industry CEO, announced that the US is making plans for the use of such incapacitating biochemical weapons in an invasion of Iraq.” Sunshine Project