September 27th, 2005


Weapons of Mass Destruction

22 years ago, mankind was nearly wiped out, because a computer system falsely reported that enemy nuclear missiles had been launched.  Luckily, one man made the correct call that it was a false alarm.  We were this close to global thermonuclear war.

I wonder how many people I'd trust to make that decision.

You can read about it here (thanks to communicator).

The incipient digitisation of everything

10 years ago I had a 28.8 kilobit modem connecting me to the internet, and I was charged by the minute for my connection (plus a £10 a month subscription fee).  I was doing pretty well, the internet wasn't widely known by that point and most people didn't have any connection at all.  This, of course, was in addition to the £10 monthly charge for my phone line (with call costs that increased if I wanted to phone somewhere more than 5 miles from where I lived).

Sometime in the next 30 days I will have 10Megabit broadband, and I will be paying around £35 a month in total for it.  I don't have a phone-line any more - I use Voice over IP instead, which costs only £6.99 and gives me vast amounts of free calls to anywhere in the country, and incredibly cheap calls to most of  the world.  Another supplier has just announced 24MBit broadband for only £24 a month.

All of which leaves me wondering if we're starting to hit the limits of how much I care about broadband.  I can already download music faster than I can listen to it.  I'll shortly be able to download video faster than I can watch it.  I don't need to download entire libraries of congress or Linux installs every ten minutes.  My online gaming is now largely dependent on my reflexes rather than how long it takes the signal to get to the server and back (the final barrier being the speed of light itself, unlikely to be shattered in the near future).

I'm so used to bandwidth being a problem I pretty much failed to notice when it stopped being one (about a year ago, when I moved to 2MBit downstream - and the only reason I got that was that I needed the 384kbit upstream to stop BitTorrent knocking the phone out).  I'm sure the 10MBit connection will make a bit of a difference, but we're now reaching the same kind of areas as Microsoft and Google competing over whether users should have 1Gig or 2Gig for their email storage - it just doesn't affect me.

I'm sure that some day it will again - when I need to upload my entire personality to my backup servers under the Siberian tundra, I'll complain that it takes nearly 30 seconds, and I really need an upgrade.  But until that point I think I can consider it a dead subject for me.
lady face

The best presentation in the world

Some months ago I went to see Lawrence Lessig talk in Edinburgh.  While the content of the talk wasn't anything terribly new, the style was fantastic.

This talk builds on that style and is if anything, even better.  It's about the next generation of digital identity, which (to most people) isn't a fascinating subject, but it's absolutely magnetic, and uses technology to great effect.  Next time you see a bad powerpoint presentation, just think back to this and weep for how good they can be.