‘Software is eating the world!’ US tech luminary Marc Andreessen declared in 2009, on the eve of launching his venture capital firm, Andreessen-Horowitz. This extraordinary claim has become the mantra of Silicon Valley startup entrepreneurs, codifying a new philosophy of tech entrepreneurialism and kickstarting a bold new era of ‘creative destruction’. Decoded it means: software engineers are world-builders – so look out! Bored with building apps, games, and websites, the latest generation of tech entrepreneurs are creating social operating systems for the societies and economies of the future. Take the sharing economy startup Airbnb, for example (recipent of $112 million in funding from Andreessen-Horowitz in 2011). Andreessen claims:
Airbnb makes its money in real estate. But … Airbnb … has much more in common with Facebook or Google or Microsoft or Oracle than with any real estate company. … Airbnb is building a software technology that is equivalent in complexity, power, and importance to an operating…
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Privacy is a wonderful and complex thing. To my mind, it should operate on a sliding scale under the individual’s control: total privacy for those who want to research information for themselves or communicate in confidence with others, through partial privacy for those willing to exchange personal data for convenient services, down to zero privacy for those who want to strut their stuff in public.
The partial or total surrender of privacy is familiar to us through our transactions with the likes of Google(s goog) and our use of platforms such as Twitter. That’s fine, as long as the individual chooses to surrender their personal data. But I’d like to dwell for a moment on the concept of total privacy, and why it should be an option even in the online age.
Privacy means different things in different cultures, and the western understanding of privacy is largely a…
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The Cupola is an ESA-built observatory module of the International Space Station (ISS). Its seven windows are used to conduct experiments, dockings and observations of Earth. It was launched aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-130 on 8 February 2010 and attached to the Tranquility (Node 3) module. The Cupola’s 80 cm (31 in) window is the largest ever used in space.
Its name derives from the Italian word cupola, which means “dome”. It is extremely important to the ISS astronauts, as previously they have been confined to looking out of small portholes or at best the 20-inch (50 cm) window in the US Destiny laboratory.
Overall height: 1.5-metre (4.9 ft)
Maximum diameter: 2.95-metre (9.68 ft)
Launch mass: 1,805-kilogram (3,979 lb)
On Orbit mass: 1,880-kilogram (4,145 lb)
Dome: Forged Al 2219-T851
Skirt: Al 2219-T851
Windows: Fused silica and borosilicate glass
MDPS shutters: DuPont Kevlar/3M Nextel sheets
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Last week I wrote about whether or not we really needed economic growth, and I claimed that the central problems facing our economy and our society were not about the size, scale, or growth of our economy, but rather about some deeper, undisclosed set of problems. This week I am trying, haphazardly and tentatively, to work through what those problems might look like. Also to predict the future.
One of the things that bothers me about economics—both in its academic guise as a social science discipline and its neoliberal political guise as a quasi-religious faith in which bankers and CEOs serve as high priests—is its general failure to talk about what it’s for. Historians have a whole subfield, historiography, dedicated to how and why we write history. But because the economy is so self-evidently important to the fabric of our society, economists get a kind of pass. Economics is important…
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