Julien Smith on the realities of modern safety and our misfiring flinch reflexes.
Julien Smith believes I won’t let him die.
The subject came up during our interview at Foo Camp 2012 — part of our ongoing foo interview series — in which Smith argued that our brains and innate responses don’t always map to the safety of our modern world:
“We’re in a place where it’s fundamentally almost impossible to die. I could literally — there’s a table in front of me made of glass — I could throw myself onto the table. I could attempt to even cut myself in the face or the throat, and before I did that, all these things would stop me. You would find a way to stop me. It’s impossible for me to die.”
[Discussed at the 5:16 mark in the associated video interview.]
Smith didn’t test his theory, but he makes a good point. The way we respond to the world often doesn’t correspond with the world’s true state. And he’s right about that not-letting-him-die thing; myself and the other people in the room would have jumped in had he crashed through a pane of glass. He would have then gone to an emergency room where the doctors and nurses would usher him through a life-saving process. The whole thing is set up to keep him among the living.
Acknowledging the safety of an environment isn’t something most people do by default. Perhaps we don’t want to tempt fate. Or maybe we’re wired to identify threats even when they’re not present. This disconnect between our ancient physical responses and our modern environments is one of the things Smith explores in his book The Flinch.
Heavy data, open source strategies for businesses, and collaborating on code.
This week on O’Reilly: Jim Stogdill said data is getting heavier relative to the networks that carry it around the data center; Simon Phipps revealed open source community strategies relevant to the enterprise; and Team Geek authors Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman discussed the importance of developer collaboration.
Dr. Nadav Aharony used phone sensors to explore personal behaviors and community trends.
It’s clear at this point that the smartphone revolution has very little to do with the phone function in these devices. Rather, it’s the unique mix of sensors, always-on connectivity and mass consumer adoption that’s shaping business and culture.
Dr. Nadav Aharony (@nadavaha) tapped into this mix when he was working on a “social MRI” study in MIT’s Media Lab. Aharony, who recently joined us as part of our ongoing foo interview series, described his vision of the social MRI:
“If you think about it, the three things you take with you when you go out of your home are your keys, your wallet and your phone, so our phones are always with us. In aggregate, we can use the phones in many people’s pockets as a virtual imaging chamber. So, one aspect of the social MRI is this virtual imaging chamber that is collecting tens or hundreds of signals at the same time from members of the community.” [Discussed at 1:16]
Aharony’s work focused on 150 participants (about 75 families) that were given phones for 15 months. During that time, more than one million hours of “continuous sensing data” was gathered with the participants’ consent. The data was acquired and scrubbed under MIT’s ethics guidelines, and for extra measure, Aharony included his own data in the dataset.
Collecting the data was just the beginning. Parsing that information and creating experiments based on emerging signals is where the applications of a social MRI became significant.
Team Geek authors Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman on coding myths and collaboration.
If we accept that software development is a team activity (it is), the importance of collaboration and communication becomes clear. Team Geek authors Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman discuss the nuances of modern programming in this interview.
William Gibson's apt predictions, why C matters, and a vote against lightweight DRM.
This week on O'Reilly: James Turner noted that the corporate dystopia predicted in "Neuromancer" has come to pass, author David Griffith discussed C's continued popularity, and Joe Wikert explained why lightweight ebook DRM isn't viable.
Copyright and intellectual disobedience, improving health IT integration, and pushing the envelope on digital images.
This week on O'Reilly: Artist Nina Paley explained her "intellectual disobedience" stance on copyright, Shahid Shah looked at the future of health IT integration, and illustrator Laura Maaske discussed the next generation of digital imagery.
"America Revealed" illustrates the complexity of the United States electric power grid.
The PBS TV series "America Revealed" visualizes the creation, use and fragility of the U.S. electric power grid. It's also an example of how data and context should always go together.
Artist Nina Paley on pushing the boundaries of copyright.
"Sita Sings the Blues" creator Nina Paley explains her "intellectual disobedience" stance on copyright and notes that current copyright laws are "completely out of touch with human behavior."