Author: Jon Evans

Google in, Google out

Call it the Triumph of the Stacks. I attended Google I/O this week, and saw a lot of cool things: but what really hit home for me, at the keynote and the demos and the developer sessions, was just how dominant Google has become, in so many different domains … and, especially, how its only real competition comes from the four other tech behemoths who dominate our industry’s landscape. Typically, Bruce Sterling saw it coming first, five full years ago: “The Stacks” […] Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. These big five American vertically organized silos are re-making the...

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Pattern recognition

I helped work on a thing last weekend that I can’t write about, yet, and then last week I found my way to San Jose for Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference, and fine, all right, OK, I’m convinced: now that the smartphone boom is plateauing, AI/deep learning is the new coal face of technology — and, at least for now, Nvidia bestrides it like many parallel colossi. I use the metaphor “coal face” advisedly. It’s the place where advances are being made, where the most value is being created … but it’s also a messy business, often with little visibility,...

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This dystopia is completely ridiculous

We live in dark and darkly hilarious times. Our world has grown so bewildering and complicated, in no small part because of the finger jammed on technology’s fast-forward button, that many people have given up trying to make sense of it — or to make sense at all. That’s honestly my only explanation for some of the craziness out in the tech world these days. I once saw Cory Doctorow talk about ending DRM worldwide in the next decade. Oh, Cory, do you have your work cut out. Consider Juicero. No, wait, stop laughing — I mean, keep laughing,...

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Reasons to be cheerful

I know, I know, it’s been a rough year. Fury, discord, and hatred seem to be on the rise. The super-elite keep getting richer, while young workers keep getting poorer, and economic mobility has plummeted. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” And yet. Quietly, stubbornly, defying the headlines, bit by bit, around the world, slow shifts are underway towards a better world. Could they be erased by some kind of sudden disaster? Sure. And yet it’s hard to deny that profound changes for the better keep happening. I don’t mean to minimize...

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Hope and rapture on West Broadway

We were just outside the Marriott on the edge of downtown when the conference doors opened. I remember saying something like “Those people… they seem a little different…” And suddenly there was a horrible strident laughter all around us and the street was full of what looked like hairy steampunk neohippies, all vaping and toking and comparing tattoos in clusters around the main entrance, which displayed a MAPS PSYCHEDELIC SCIENCE 2017 sign like a banner marking the gateway to hell. And a voice was screaming “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?” Then it was quiet again. My attorney...

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Stop blaming the tech industry for the world’s problems

Everything we do is terrible, says the trope. We’re oppressive. We’re exploitative. We’re sexist, racist, classist. We deify horrible frat-boy brogrammer assholes, while funding, and celebrating, morally bankrupt apps that exist to stand in for their mothers and/or servants. We destroy jobs and displace the working class. We cater to the rich and privileged urban elite, while the poor masses fall further behind. How can we possibly claim to be building a better world? And the thing is, you can, in isolation, actually make a pretty good case that the tech industry is guilty of all of these things....

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Waiting for the new new thing

The smartphone wars are over, and everybody won. Life without our phones is almost unthinkable. I just spent the last five days on a couple of remote Pacific islands, and every so often I’d look up and see a flower-garlanded local child immersed in a Samsung tablet – and this seemed wholly unremarkable. But now that the gold rush is over, and we’ve entered the mopping-up phase – what next? What is, as Michael Lewis once put it, the new new thing? Conventional wisdom gives us five major contenders: AI, AR/VR, biotech, blockchains, and drones. AI is the biggest...

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Why do developers who could work anywhere flock to the world’s most expensive cities?

Politicians and economists lament that certain alpha regions — SF, LA, NYC, Boston, Toronto, London, Paris — attract all the best jobs while becoming repellently expensive, reducing economic mobility and contributing to further bifurcation between haves and have-nots. But why don’t the best jobs move elsewhere? Of course many of them can’t. The average financier in NYC or London (until Brexit annihilates London’s banking industry, of course…) would be laughed out of the office, and not invited back, if they told their boss they wanted to henceforth work from Chiang Mai. But this isn’t true of (much of) the...

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