I rarely post about non-technology related issues. But this is, in so many ways, an amazing document to read in the Financial Times, in the middle of this financial mess. It's from Andrew Lahde, a hedge fund manager who made a bundle off the subprime collapse:
Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, "What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it." I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.
And maybe it's not so irrelevant to technology after all. Read on.
The CADS project - designed in response to illegal logging activity in California's threatened redwood forests - is an accreted version of trickle-down technologies from the military/industrial complex which explores interspecies collaboration in the fight to save endangered environments. Relying on the crickets' unique audible responses to human encroachment as well as their strategic positioning on the borders between logged and unlogged regions, CADS establishes a system of deterrence through the technological augmentation of natural systems.
The technology itself is an electronic device that receives distressed cricket chirps and translates the sound into a firing signal for anti-logger missiles. The device is a form of extreme bioengineering that simply recombines consumer surveillance products (essentially "bugging" devices) with model rockets - both trickle-down goods from the military-industrial complex.
What's great about this (imagined) system is the integration of crickets as living components of a sensor network, and the clear line between sensed invasion and actuated consequence. It's kind of the opposite of ShotSpotter the creepy/fascinating sonic sensor system that detects the noise of gunfire in urban areas, triangulates a location, and notifies the cops.
So I saw this video, described as " "visionary" " on Johnny Holland, and immediately had to take a look:
And the opening credits are quite nice. But boy, is it an awful representation of an awful future! It's almost too easy to critique, but my righteous anger took over. How is it awful? Let us count the ways:
People of the future will all be hot yuppies obsessed with "trendy" apartments whose massive, computer-augmented front door apparatus makes them feel "secure and protected" as never before. Apparently, those apartments are perma-staged by IKEA-bots, because this no sign of human inhabitance -- no family pictures, no clutter, no kids, no pets, no personal belongings at all.
Look, it's a "3D entertainment system"! Doesn't that look entertaining? It's essentially a widgetized Windows system on a giant flat-screen, with a remote control you wear around your wrist. It's unclear why the home entertainment system of the future looks just like the ePC of 2006 with a "sophisticated algorithmic system" in the backend that does vacation planning for you at least as well as Orbitz.
...anyway, I meant to post this a month ago but ran out of rage and couldn't care less about finishing my detailed list of horrors. Do, however, watch it for the moment when an epileptic jogger recovers from an almost-seizure (monitored in real-time by the sort of highly paid doctor who wouldn't be caught dead doing real-time monitoring in the US) just before a plane (!) rams into a skyscraper and the scenario turns to disaster in a busy city. Crowds running wildly, people checking their mobile phones (?) as debris rains down on them.
And then the rest of the video is basically all about communications infrastructure, lovingly diagrammed out with little lines connecting places around the globe.
No, really. Really.
The (Dutch?) visual design is tasteful, though. The same people who didn't put personal belongings in the luxury apartment also didn't render people falling, weeping in the streets, firefighters dying, a sea of commuters slowly walking back over the Williamsburg Bridge, the way we all covered their faces for days to avoid the smell in the air.
In September 2001, I was living one mile away from the World Trade Center. Many of the people slowly walking past my apartment were still covered in gypsum from buildings that had fallen down. I walked back through lower Manhattan trying to give blood, but the hospitals didn't have enough living patients who needed it.
A month later I've realized a bit more about why I started out so angry, and ended up just feeling sad. It's not just the tone-deaf use of a criminal tragedy to promote a perky vision for communications infrastructure technologies. It's the vision I have of its creator (in my head he is young, Dutch, wears cool T-shirts, and shares my liking for minimal electronica) carefully arranging that nicely composed shot of the plane slamming into the skyscraper. I imagine him focusing on the music in his headphones as he adjusts the plane's movement into the building for maximum visual effect. Again. And again. And again.