At Home

Thoughts about things at home—kids, recipes, animals, community, politics, and more.

Teleportation Considerations

 Experience Music Project, Seattle, 2014

Experience Music Project, Seattle, 2014

The drive home from Seattle is about six hours. It's just long enough to have that one fidgety spot. When we approach that spot, I start hearing wishes for teleportation from the backseat.

"Just imagine.... We could be home already."

"We could transport ourselves to the pyramids for a weekend."

"We could catch March Madness games in different arenas. On the same day."

Usually I join the "we could" game, but this week I started thinking about the whole country zinging back and forth for March Madness games. We'd need bigger arenas. And the idea of needing bigger arenas led me to ask a lot of questions of my teenage-travelers-turned-quantum-scientists. We ended up talking quite a bit about the societal adjustments that follow an advance in technology, e.g. not wearing Google Glass in public restrooms.

So, out of the mouths of babes, here is a beginning list of considerations about teleportation:

Practical Concerns about Teleporting

  • Would travelers experience jet lag?
  • How many people could simultaneously teleport from a single location to a single destination?
  • What happens when everyone wants to go to a warm location at the same time in the winter? Or concerts or sporting events? Will traffic control be required?
  • How would luggage work? Clothes? Jewelry? Prosthetics?
  • What about hackers and glitches? Would teleportation make it easier to be a cat burglar? What if we teleported into a brick wall?
  • Would GIS engineers need to develop more sophisticated three-dimensional coordinate maps to account for multi-story buildings?

Societal and Legal Concerns about Teleporting

  • We would need rules about not teleporting into homes without the owner's permission. We talked about having an accept process for incoming travelers, similar to what we do now for Bluetooth files and collect phone calls.
  • No teleporting into bathrooms. (This seemed to be an important one for teenage boys. I, on the other hand, thought it would be lovely to teleport to an underutilized bathroom. They've never stood in the girls' line at a stadium.)
  • Would there be a data log of where we transported? How long would it be stored? Who could access the log?
  • How would this change war? If a country could teleport its entire army across the globe in the blink of an eye, that changes things, right?
  • Would passports be sufficient enough for international teleportation travelers?
  • As the technology moves from a station-based teleportation (think airport and air traffic control) to individual devices/portals, what new concerns are discovered?

We only have questions. No answers.

Just so I don't leave anyone thinking this is a super-serious group of boys, watch this clip that is a perhaps more honest representation of the drive. Somebody invent that teleporter, please.

Flickr Is Dead. Long Live Flickr.

 Flickr on the porch. Photo by Miles.

Flickr on the porch. Photo by Miles.

Flickr's redesign caught the world a bit unawares last week. Surprise notwithstanding, it took only moments for people to declare their love or hate for the new look. I sat on my hands for a week, absorbing the changes slowly. 

I like it.

I think it's safe to say the design team will continue to make changes, like Delicious is doing throughout its also-sudden redo and like what Google does for nearly everything. As Fred Brooks would say, "Design, design, and design; and seek knowledgeable criticism."

Here is my plus/delta list for now:

Plus (hurrah!)

  1. Social — I like seeing large photos from my contacts when I hit the home page. This is an improvement over the recent activity that occupied the above-the-fold in old Flickr.
  2. Scroll — I can scroll easily through those photos and my search results. (Yay!)
  3. Sets — I like this update the best of all. I share sets of event photos frequently. The new layout makes me happy.
  4. Captions on hover — Gorgeous implementation.
  5. Flickr blog and Explore — They're not new. I just like both a many great photo and photographer discoveries.

Delta (my hopes for what's next)

  1. Social (yeah, it's up above, also) — Kudos on the repositioning of content. I'm hoping for more integration into networks; more internal communication and linking tools (vis-à-vis tags, hashtags and such); and maybe, just maybe the next big thing in curating and sharing. I don't know what it is yet, but think Yahoo and Flickr are as good as a bet as any for figuring it out.
  2. Ads — Meh. I realize they are the modern deal with the devil. I love Flickr for its paid pro community. I plan to renew forever and not worry about the ad crisis. (I'm one of those people. I prefer to pay a reasonable fee for web services in lieu of ads.) For those who don't want to pay-to-play, I hope Flickr forces its advertisers to create cool photo ads that integrate into the stream like artwork, with only a discreet ad tattoo.
  3. Comments and sharing on hover — I have to think this is coming. Right now, it's a clear break to the old Flickr. I'm looking forward to seeing the UI when it's finished. (I'm sure this will also include better link clues and typography consistency.)
  4. Better data portability — I'd like to be able to download sets. (Maximum size limits are okay.) 
  5. Slideshow — Auto Ken Burns. Ergh.
  6. Guest pass — How about we just adopt more granular sharing permissions instead, like sharing via link?

So.... Not bad. Change is good. This change is good. It's how we move forward. Flickr is dead. Long live Flickr.

**And, um yeah, I have one final request (please, oh please Flickr gods).... I need an Instagram auto-import killer. I'm thinking something as simple as an EXIF/metadata filter that will allow me to hide the photos from Instagram. Because this is Flickr, right? Not Instagram. I get why my friends are doing the backup to Flickr. It makes sense. And I treasure you both, Jeremy Macdonald and Tim Lauer, but you're killin' me here.

Internet as Conscience

 Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking. —H.L. Mencken

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking. —H.L. Mencken

For this invention [writing] will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise. (Egyptian King Thamus to Theuth, as told by Socrates. Plato's Phaedrus, section 275a-b)

Sounds familiar, right?

Strip out the cast of characters, replace the word writing with Internet and you have the premise of several best-selling books and well-regarded articles. You also have the complaint and worry we share as parents, educators, politicians, thinkers, and doers.


The Internet is not making us stupid. Smart is not making us dumb.

Nicholas Carr, Evgeny Morozov, and others disagree. They are the Socrates of our age. This comparison works for me in a couple ways. First, I may not agree completely with Carr and Morozov, but value their dialectic approach to this latest era of change. Second, Socrates was no dummy, but he was as skeptical of the written word as Carr is of the Internet. (To be fair, Morozov usually ends with a more balanced, if cynical, view.)

I don't believe we are becoming more stupid than we were already. I don't think filter bubbles and self-selection bias are more troubling now than before. I have evolving views on digital dualism, augmented reality, and the singularity. a fit of Pollyanna, I have hopes the Internet and increased connectedness are making us more aware, or maybe even kinder, or at least more tolerant.

So far, I have to doubt my own thesis as much as I doubt Carr's and Morozov's. For each step forward (the kindness of a stranger caught on YouTube or clean water for millions via viral campaign), there are as many steps back—or steps sideways, perhaps.

King Thamus chided Theuth for his elixir of reminding, warning his pupils would be, "for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise." Morozov says it more eloquently in his Twitter bio: "There are idiots. Look around." That, if nothing else, is true.

Mencken's view on the conscience becomes even more relevant now. We've moved beyond somebody may be looking to somebody is probably looking...and filming. Cases in point:

Dateline: March 2013, Oregon

University of Oregon adjunct law professor James L. Olmsted was arrested following a confrontation that turned physical. The professor was being an ass—and that was before he crossed any legal lines. It was caught on video (of course...duh).

Dateline: February 2013, Bangkok

DKNY used Humans of New York photos in a window display, even after HoNY's Brandon Stanton had turned down their licensing request. He heard about it from a fan. “Every time one of my photos get picked up, I get notified about it."

Dateline: January 2013, St. Louis

Pastor Alois Bell wrote a snarky message on an Applebee's receipt. "I give God 10%, why do you get 18?" A photo of the receipt went viral. Religious debate ensued; people were fired; and, I'm guessing one Pastor Alois Bell wanted to crawl in a hole.

Dateline: Pick a Year, Washington D.C.

Politician __________ did something stupid and left a digital footprint of it. Insert Anthony Weiner—pun not intended (well, maybe)—or John Ensign or....

So, just as I don't blame the Internet for making us stupid, I admit I can't expect it to be our conscience. Sadly, Morozov is right. There are idiots. I guess my question now is are there more or fewer than the pre-Internet days?

Thanks, ºNit Soto, for licensing your CCFlickr photo (binoculars) for remix.