Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Your Internet is not the same as My Internet

If you're pressed for time, just jump ahead and watch this video. Seriously, it will be the best nine minutes of your life you've spent in a while:

If you do have a bit more time, it really makes you wonder what the solution to these problems are. Have we finally come full circle, where the power of the Internet isn't discovered FOR us anymore, but BY us? 

My earliest memory of the Internet is of me watching a favourite television show in the 1990s, and at the end they displayed on the screen a web address where you could go view MORE about this magical show. As a kid in the 1990s, I had no Internet-capable PC, and it wasn't until High School that I finally got access through the school computer laboratory.

For me though, the concept was a magical one. I remember chanting out that whole web address (a lengthy one), including the 'www', and annoying my mother. Here was an ADDRESS to a special place with content about this thing I love.

Maybe that's what we need again: to personally take responsibility for identifying inspiring sources of content. To click on unsubscribe links for content we don't like, giving the better content a chance to catch our attention. To actually type in specific URLs, not just Google our interests and accept whatever Google delivers to us.

I'm tired of the privacy issues online. I hate social media where I feel no need to share anything, and the people I'm following don't either. I HATE 'free' web-platforms thinking they own my content because I dared to share it through their platform.

This is me, wanting a return to the early days. Wanting to re-assert control over my content. Wanting to be a producer of quality content, not just a mindless aggregator. In short, Say No to Bad Internet.

For extra credit, here's the Veritasium video that inspired it all, and which will forever make you question the value of Facebook likes and advertising. It's amazing how people will exploit any system, and the rest of us are mired in the battle:

Sunday, 20 April 2014

More Things You Will Not See in Johannesburg

Easter Sunday morning in Cape Town, what to do, what to do? Why, visit 'the most beautiful garden in Africa', Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens,  of course!

What a great morning :)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Remember When Cellphones Were Special?

Watching a documentary about the gadget innovations of the 1980s (think VHS, Pacman, PCs, Boom Boxes and the Sony Walkman), I recalled the amazing cellphones of my childhood in the 1990s and early 2000s. Click for a blast from the past:

Man, I miss those days. Back then you had a choice of cellphone design and fit-for-purpose handsets we can't even dream about today. Now you just 'choose' by software platform (Apple vs Android vs Windows Mobile), and if you can't handle a touchscreen you buy a BlackBerry. You always feel cheated as well, because unless you're buying the very best you just know you're getting a cheap knock-off of what's actually available, and I never felt that way in the glory days of cellphones where grown men would consider buying clamshell phones.

Back then every new phone I got was an amazing journey of discovery - now it's just a question of 'Oh yeah, I guess the screen really IS a bit sharper, isn't it?' That's not improvement in my book. Bring on The Next Big Invention!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A Letter For People In The Year 3 000 AD

If you're in the year 3 000 AD and able to interpret this, I'm sorry. I can't even begin to imagine what you're thinking about the rest of the Internet contents and other media from this period you're viewing.

It's still crazy for me to think that everything that is 'now' for me, in full technicolour, will one day be not only 'old-fashioned' or even 'archaic', but 100%, bona fide indecipherable relics of a time forgotten.

I don't hold it against you: as much as I 'know' about ancient history, human consciousness only really starts from the 1930s. We still watch documentaries about World War II on television, still listen to the songs of Elvis Presley and The Beatles, and still recall the dance moves to 'The Macarena'.

Even if you don't understand my references to a pop culture that's lying in dust, let me just reassure you that there are things that don't ever have appeared to change. Humans now are still defined by their primary emotions - love, hate, fear, anger, hope - and struggling to figure out how to stay fed and find elusive happiness before we die.

I guess if you summarise it that way it sounds pretty bleak, and indeed bleakness and information overload is something we're struggling with a lot right now. We're expected to work harder than ever before, process so much information that 'brain-freeze' is a common phenomenon from over-loaded brains, and only the smallest fraction of people are wealthy enough to not worry about money.

If I had to guess about what YOUR life looks like, I'm pretty blank. Only 20 years ago we didn't have the Internet, which defines our lives now; and only just over 100 years ago humans first took to the air in a powered aircraft. What will be invented in the next 986 years?

Some guesses from my side:
- No more reliance on batteries which need to be recharged by users
- Intelligent clothing that can change designs dynamically
- An interface between human brains and computers
- True virtual reality, indistinguishable from real life
- 100% visibility at all times to law enforcers and loved ones
- Artificial organs greatly extending human lifetimes
- Life on space stations will become a norm for many

All of that is just window-dressing though, isn't it? If you're still HUMAN, I know for sure that you will still fall in love and be hurt by those who betray you. Many people are probably still struggling from poverty, and the price of that in space can only be death a lot sooner than it is now because the costs of living there are higher. And even if computers do a lot of your thinking for you, you'll be feeling more flooded by information than ever and unable to have true visibility of any complex endeavor.

Which begs the question, why are you reading this blog?

To my fellow survivors of 2014, all I can say is we'd be better advised to make the most of life now, than wait for a future which will yield more problems than answers. Now's the best time to be alive, unless they ever do figure out a way to travel back to 1960!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Time Vs Money

Something that I spend a lot of time thinking about these days is the intertwined relationship between time, money and quality of life. 

Our employers pay us 'money' in return for the 'time' we invest, and that payment is both for the time we have invested now ('in real time') and in gaining unique skills (i.e. education). We then use this payment to buy things for ourselves, giving other people the value of our time in return for the products of theirs. It's enough to make your head spin.

Here's an interesting new twist that occurred to me: if you divided your salary by your time worked, you could put an equivalent price in minutes (for example) for the total cost of any item you'd like to buy. For example ... a coffee, that will be 11 minutes of your life, sir. That dress? Why, that will be five hours ma'am. A house? Just sign on the dotted line, and hand over the keys to your soul.

The 'interesting' (or sad) part of course is that because we all earn different salaries, the very same items cost relatively less of richer people's lives than they do for poorer people. What's a year for a poor person might be worth two weeks of a rich person's life, given the salary differential.

I know I've dedicated 2014 to good financial sense ... I've ticked all the big items off the list that I need, so now I'm just left with the never-ending list of things I want. I don't think anybody EVER gets to the end of that second list because the goal-posts keep shifting; and if we're honest about it, the first list is extremely small and measured more in emotions than money.

No matter how careful a financial planner you are, however, you'll never budget for all of life's little hiccups, and we always rely on that one line item which can never reflect on any spreadsheet: hope. If it wasn't for that, you could be handed a financial statement when you turn 16, reflecting your likely expenses and value at retirement for every variable. As such, I'm STILL betting on winning the lottery at some point.

Because retirement is where the link between time and money becomes painfully evident, isn't it? When you're right at the end of your life with money left-over, or at the end of your money with life left-over. *sighs* I really think that schools should be teaching kids retirement planning as a mandatory course - at least if you know the financial impact of all your decisions, you'll have a feeling of ownership over every regret.